School spending has gone through the roof and test scores are flat.
While most every other service in life has gotten faster, better, and cheaper, one of the most important things we buy -- education -- has remained completely stagnant, unchanged since we started measuring it in 1970.
Why no improvement?
Because K-12 education is a government monopoly and monopolies don't improve.
The government-school monopoly claims: Education is too important to leave to the free market. At a teachers' union rally, even actor Matt Damon showed up to deride market competition as "MBA style thinking."
"Competition may be okay for selling movies and cell phones, but education is different," says the establishment. Learning is complex. Parents aren't real "customers" because they don't have the expertise to know which school is best. They don't know enough about curricula, teachers' credentials, etc. That's why public education must be centrally planned by government "experts".
Those experts have been in charge for years. They are what school reformers call the "Blob." Jeanne Allen from the Center for Education Reform says for years attempts at reform have run, "smack into federations, alliances, departments, councils, boards, commissions, panels, herds, flocks and convoys, that make up the education industrial complex, or the Blob. Taken individually they were frustrating enough, each with its own bureaucracy, but taken as a whole they were (and are) maddening in their resistance to change. Not really a wall -- they always talk about change -- but more like quicksand, or a tar pit where ideas slowly sink.
And the most powerful part of the Blob is the teachers' union.
This Saturday, I interview Nathan Saunders, the President of the Washington DC Teachers' Union, and Joseph Del Grosso, President of the Newark Teachers' Union. They say things like, "the unions have a pretty strong history of advocating for high-quality public education... We have progress as a result of unions."
Their predecessors were more candid. When the Washington Post asked George Parker, when he headed the Washington, DC teachers union, why he fought a voucher program that let some kids escape failing government schools, he said, "As kids continue leaving the system, we will lose teachers. Our very survival depends on having kids in DC schools so we'll have teachers to represent."
Albert Shanker, the teachers' union president who, years ago, first turned teachers unions into a national political force, was even more honest. Shanker callously said, "When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children."
Union leaders first. Teachers second. Kids third. Or maybe fourth or fifth, after the school board, the principal's union, or some other part of the Blob.