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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Klein and Gutmann see competition as the answer to all our problems

Check out this "discussion" sponsored by the Wall Street Journal between Christopher Edley, dean of UC Berkeley School of Law, Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania, and Joel Klein about education reform.

Gutmann and Klein express faith that competition and the proliferation of charter schools will lead to fundamental improvements in our public schools -- which seems awfully naive, given the recent worldwide economic crash caused by unmitigated competition in our financial sector.

Indeed, by siphoning off the most motivated students (and parents), and providing them with superior conditions, including smaller classes and more resources, the expansion of charter schools is leading to widening inequities and a two-tier educational system.

In NYC in particular, because of the privileged status of charter schools, and their ability to raise trunkloads of private money and to cap enrollment and class size at any level they prefer, while being given precious space within our overcrowded public schools, there is no real level playing field. Indeed, more and more it appears that there is zero-sum game here: tails they win, heads we lose.

Only Edley expresses mild disagreement with this notion that the proliferation of charter schools will lift all boats. Gutmann agrees with Klein, arguing that the high quality of our institutions of higher education are due to competitive forces. (She doesn't mention teacher tenure, a particular bugaboo of Klein's and the other free marketeers.) Perhaps her faith in the business model has been reinforced by her annual salary, recently reported at $1,225,103, nearly twice as high as the salaries of the presidents of Harvard and Princeton.

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