Thursday, August 6, 2009

And the winner is.........the STUDENTS!

In the education world, part of the promise of competition is that it will improve schooling for all kids. But we really have not seen that happen in areas where students have a choice of schools to attend. Most of the blame goes to a system that protects schools from seeing adverse affects from competition.

I chair a board for a DC charter school and I am now seeing first hand the two factors that will ultimately make better schools a reality through competition:

  1. There has to be more seats than students so that schools actually have to fight for every student in order to survive
  2. Parents have to experience shopping for schools long enough to become savvy consumers

It is basic economics that if a resource is scarce, the price goes up. In DC, there are excess seats and not enough students. Wouldn’t be too much of a problem but our reimbursement per student has stayed flat this year and our reimbursement per student for facilities has gone down. Also of note is that many of these schools were built at the peak of building costs in DC. There is no slop in a charter school budget to absorb any reduction in revenue. Ouch.

So the only way to make up for this budget crunch is to make sure you have more students. Basic business sense as more students means more revenue. The result is more schools are pursuing these students and marketing to a lot more of their parents. These aggressive marketing efforts required in these lean times are creating a much more educated consumer out of DC parents - because we have to reach all of them in order to survive.

In order to meet recruitment numbers, schools are offering free after school programs and more laptops. Parents are demanding more to commit to bringing their student to your school.

And the winner is……….the students!!!

It is pretty amazing to see that charter schools are actually building this competition in DC. And because Michelle Rhee is building a better public school system to compete, the students in DC are really going to win over the next few years.