...and you thought your job was safe

Budget cuts have happened all around school districts, and even teachers have begun to worry about what their future holds. We hear that school districts do not have the money they use to have, but how on earth did they fund a new data portal for parents to compare schools on standardized test performances. According to a recently published article, millions of dollars have been spent in developing, administering and collecting data for this portal. The article talks about how parents can easily misunderstand this data and come to their own conclusion that one school is better than another based off of the test scores. Talk about making education worse for teachers, now they will have to worry about students being removed from their school to go to another because of higher test scores. If the supply of students decrease at specific schools, that means that the demand for teachers will also decrease. Teachers no longer can think their jobs are safe. Teachers must now recruit students for their classes. And that is not all; teachers now have to compete with online schools, which will also decrease the supply of students in classrooms. What does the future hold for public educators? Will public schools be obsolete 20 to 30 years from now?


Dr. Tufte said...

-1 on Belba for a grammatical error.

First off, let's be clear about the numbers: there is no sense in which real spending per pupil has declined in the U.S., at least for the last several decades. Secondly, it is clear that a lot of that extra money is going into administration.

Now, back to teachers. The concept that Belba is driving at here is derived demand. No one demands teachers in and of themselves. We demand education, which induces schools to demand teachers.

This is a problem for teachers, because there is an intermediary between them and the customer they have to satisfy. I'm not a fan of the NEA (the teacher's union), but as an economist I see a need for it: to keep "the wedge" that can divert money on its way from parents to teachers as small as possible.

And the NEA has been hugely successful. When was the last time you heard of a teacher leaving a public school for a private school job because it paid more?

In the future, I don't see big gains for teachers. The public seems to be on to this rigged game. On the other hand, because the NEA is politically entrenched, they may not lose much either.

But, Belba is interested in the individual teacher, and here there may be a problem. No one cares much about the individual teacher because they are not a monopoly provider. The big enemy of the teacher is that wedge in administration.

Kevin said...

I am currently a teacher in the field of Early Childhood (Preschool). While I do not deal directly with the NEA, I teach for Head Start, so in a sense I am part of a large "union". We constantly have to petition both state and federal governments to grant us funds to continue serving children. However, the government is placing more and more contingents on the funds given. The problem in preschool teaching is similar to the public school system: the pay is typically better than the private sector.

A majority of the money does go into administration, which is frustrating to teachers. I currently supervise 3 other teachers, and the most common complaint I get is that teachers don't get paid enough for the work they do. I agree wholeheartedly.

Belba poses a great question of whether or not public schools will be around in the future. They may still be here, but I believe the supply of quality teachers is going to decrease. Class sizes are increasing and pay is not.

Kevin said...

Hence the reason I am getting my MBA and changing careers.

Mitchell Stone said...

We live in a great nation, one that employs a system of capitalism, because it works. In a capitalistic society there is a perfectly competitive market, one which leads to innovation and improvement. I do agree that teachers are not treated as fairly as they should be, but competition could turn out to be a good thing. Competition drives people, or companies, to innovate and improve their methods and to become more efficient. Maybe this sort of competition could work in the education as well, because there is definitely a need for improvement.

Dr. Tufte said...

In response to the points raised by Kevin and Mitchell Stone, I think there are three economic problems with education.

First, as to costs, I think that Kevin is right: too much of the increases are going into administration.

Second, Mitchell is right that competition would help.

But third, a lot of our problems go back to Belba's post about public education. We have turned that idea on its head to mean accessible to all. But in so doing we're not considering how much marginal cost each additional child entails. When we push the limits of mainstreaming students. this can get very expensive.