False Choices: The Economic Argument Against Market-Driven Education Reform
After experimenting with market-based, competitive education initiatives for 20 years with little statewide education improvement, it’s time Minnesota returns to what works best: proper education investment and supporting our students and teachers.
Minnesota is home to the nation’s oldest charter school law and has also implemented school choice initiatives, such as open enrollment. This simulated market experience has not supported the idea that increased competition drives improvement.
Minnesota's national test scores in math have increased by less than seven percent since the introduction of a competitive system 20 years ago, and reading scores increased by less than one percent during the same time frame.
The main problem, among many, is that school systems cannot function as free markets if we want to achieve universal post-secondary readiness. Free markets produce efficiency, not equity for all. Efficiency helps maximize profit, but what about students that aren’t profitable to educate?
Using the rules of economics, and assuming we must achieve universal post-secondary readiness, MN2020’s latest report, False Choices: Market-Driven Education Reform Doesn’t Work, demonstrates why free market thinking in education comes at a high price for students, parents and teachers.
As a result of competition-based thinking, many schools have focused on teaching-to-tests and advertising instead of broad based cognitive development that will provide students with the necessary skills to be successful in a 21st century workforce.
In moving Minnesota back toward a proven educational path, our latest report makes the following recommendations:
- There is a place in education for efficiency, incentives, and innovation; however, policymakers must stop trying to achieve these competitive goals with a false, market-based approach.
- Schools must adapt to achieve universal post-secondary readiness by focusing on initiatives that enhance teachers’ professional development and provide comprehensive teacher assessment and feedback.
- Instead of using a false market-mentality as political cover to systematically defund schools, we must invest in education for the 21st century, using some of that investment to develop a comprehensive and fair teacher evaluation metric.
- Charter schools have a place in the public education system as partners, not competitors, with traditional schools.