The traditional public school system had a very weak incentive structure. Since students automatically went to neighborhood schools, schools did not have to compete for students. The teachers unions long ago eliminated merit pay, and made teachers’ pay determined almost entirely by degrees and years spent teaching. Finally, in this traditional system, students had little incentive to work hard, especially when they did not expect to get much education, and could count on always getting promoted.
All this is beginning to change for the better, despite fierce opposition from teachers unions to virtually every important reform. School vouchers, and especially the charter school movement, is bringing competition to the traditional neighborhood school. No longer can public schools automatically have a captive audience of all the school age children in their neighborhood. Charter schools are expanding as rapidly as allowed by local and state restrictions that have been due mainly to lobbying of teachers unions.
(photo credit: Roger Blackwell)