Markets could guide Wichita school district

Yesterday I had a discussion with a person who had an idea how to save money in USD 259, the Wichita public school district.

He believes that there are too many highly-paid administrators. It’s also a common complaint leveled by many people. Reduce either the number of administrators or their salaries, and that would make more money available for other things, such as teachers. Currently the district needs to cut its budget, however, so the savings would more likely be used to meet that demand.

This brings up the broader question of staffing in the Wichita public schools. How does the district know how much management it needs? For that matter, how many teachers, custodians, etc. does it need?

There is a simple solution that provides an answer to these questions. The public school lobby, however, resists this solution at every step. They spend huge sums in the political arena to make sure they aren’t subject to the discipline that this solution would impose.

Market competition is the solution. It provides the incentive and imperative for firms to organize themselves in the way that will best meet the needs of their customers.

Under the dynamic discovery process that market competition provides, we might learn that in some cases, under some circumstances, it might be best for students if more was spent on administration and management. Laws like the “65% laws” that dictate how school funds should be spent would prevent this discovery from being made.

Market competition, if the public schools faced it, would give them a huge incentive to structure themselves to meet the needs of the customers, which are their students, parents, and the public at large.

Public schools don’t face these market incentives. They organize themselves based on their own needs rather than the needs of their customers. I don’t think there’s much way to change that except for schools to face market competition, and they resist that in every way they can.

3 Comments

  • Exactly. A “spend this much” mandate encourages schools to reclassify money into the favored categories, which can be arbitrary.

  • If 259 wants to save money let them give $4000 vouchers to any kids that want to attend private school ( this is the amount most private schools charge). They would save $10,000 per student, just think how much good they could do for the rest of the kids with that kind of savings.

  • Recently a friend who attended Truesdale
    many years ago showed me a copy of the 50th anniversary year book. It was apparent things have changed, for one there are a few more students. Another change was staff. 50 years ago the school opened with a staff of 40, 1 principle 1 janitor 38 teachers. That figured out to about 1 staff member for each 10 kids. Today it has a staff of 140 or one staff member for each 4 kids. Can anybody tell me why 259’s average class size is over 20 students per teacher.

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