A Monopoly by Any Other Name

Writing from New Orleans, Louisiana

This excellent article uses an amusing (but painful) anectode about service at the U.S. Post Office to drive home the point that government monopolies — the Pittsburgh Public Schools in this case — themselves may be starting to realize the public’s poor perception of their service.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jamie Story, the author of this article. She is a young woman who works for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and she has written many fine articles on the subject of education. An excerpt from the article:

What’s in a name? Apparently, to a government school monopoly, it’s everything.

Last month, Pittsburgh Public Schools announced the district would be dropping the word “Public” from its name in order to avoid the negative connotation often associated with public schools. A paid marketing consultant helped develop the plan, which will also result in renaming the individual schools themselves.

While a “public” outcry has caused the district to reconsider the policy, the scheme serves as a powerful reminder of the upside-down priorities of public schools — and of government monopolies in general.

It’s no wonder why Pittsburgh’s schools suffer in public perception. While the district spends more than $12,000 per student on operating expenditures alone, only 40 percent of its high school students are proficient in mathematics. District students also perform below the national average on the SAT, ACT, and Advanced Placement tests. So one would think the best way for Pittsburgh schools to improve public perception would be to increase student’s learning, not to hire expensive consultants to rebrand the schools.

The district’s policy is reminiscent of a decision made by the United States Postal Service in 2006. Faced with customer complaints about lengthy wait times, it came up with a novel “solution” — removing the clocks from post office walls. Rather than streamlining its processes to increase efficiency, the postal service merely tried to shield customers from the knowledge that they were receiving subpar service.

I recommend you read the entire article at this link: http://www.texaspolicy.com/commentaries_single.php?report_id=1584

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