When confronted with individuals that don’t understand or endorse choice in education, I like to present the analogy: what if grocery stores were run like public education? Imagine for a moment if all retail stores selling consumable food items were 1) owned and run by your local city government and 2) staffed with employees that were all members of the same union. Customers were assigned grocery stores to shop at based on their zip codes, with lower quality stores prevailing in poorer areas. In some instances, only the healthiest patrons were allowed to frequent the stores with the highest quality food stuffs, which were generally located in the wealthier areas. As a customer, your shopping experience and what you could purchase would be solely determined by your zip code, your health, and the decisions a few key politicians made about how they think you should eat.
If you try to apply this to your own experience as a customer, how happy would you be with any of the following outcomes?
1) You are forced to shop at the corner “Food Mart” for all your groceries based on your zip code.
2) You can’t shop at Whole Foods because you aren’t healthy enough.
3) Employees are never fired even if they’ve done their jobs incorrectly or been inappropriately rude to customers.
4) The employee’s union was the single largest financial contributor for elections to the city’s Board of Directors, governing all grocery stores, AND this Board negotiates the union contract with the grocery store employees.
5) A “Best of Chicago” chef at the deli of a small, gourmet fresh market has the same take-home pay as a deli clerk at Jewel Osco because they both had the same number of years of experience.
6) You have LITTLE OR NO CHOICE as to where to buy groceries and the city owned grocery stores will receive the SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY from you REGARDLESS of where you shop and whether you buy anything at all.
When I say this, most people react in one of two ways. One, they think it’s a terrible idea and say, “Why would you ever structure something that way?” Why indeed. Or two, they say that running grocery stores and running schools are too different to compare. I’m not so sure about that.
With food, we have so many choices that it is nearly impossible for us to imagine purchasing groceries without an almost innumerable amount of options. You know what brand of canned soup you prefer, where it’s the cheapest, and what grocery store has the best service. So my question remains: why should education be any different?
– Please note the post reflects the views and opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of YNPN Chicago. We encourage your comments and feedback.
Brian Kates has spent nearly six years in the charter school space and most recently was a Senior Associate with the Charter School Growth Fund, a nonprofit venture fund that invests philanthropic capital in the expansion of high quality charter schools all over the United States. Brian gained his financial analysis experience in turnaround management, including working with a family business in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Brian has worked with the Charter School Growth Fund for nearly five years and hold a Masters of Science in Finance from the University of Denver.