The Looming Challenge of Rent Seeking in Education

Charter school opponents have made some questionable arguments to explain why new charter schools shouldn’t be opened, but a “foreseeable cultural conflict” has emerged as the most ridiculous.

The main concerns held by the parents opposing Duffy’s proposal for the Great Oaks Charter School are the possible cultural differences that could arrise if the grades 6 through 12 school is approved to open in the building next door. The Harbor school is a marine science-themed Career and Technical Education High School with a state-of-the-art building and a $4 million technology center built with public and private donations…

When Duffy met with parents from the Harbor School at a community meeting in June, Parent-Teacher Association president May Taliaferrow and others raised concerns about the proximity of two schools with different visions….Taliaferrow, a vocal charter school critic for several years, is now circulating a petition criticizing the charter school for lacking the Harbor School’s curricular emphasis on “environmental stewardship,” calling it ”a foreseeable cultural conflict.”

What’s going to happen? Gang wars between charter students who believe chemistry is the most important science and Harbor students who believe environmental science is most important?

Overcoming this kind of rent seeking and NIMBYism is going to be a growing challenge as more choice is injected into the education system. When every public school is run by the same organization or bureaucracy, a new school represents a planned and welcome development. But when a city’s schools are run by different organizations in an arrangement more like a competitive market, a new school that’s run by somebody else is a real threat. Just as bars try to stop nearby establishments from getting liquor licenses, schools will be incentivized to keep new schools from opening. The result is that the process of opening a new school could grow to involve all the worst parts of our political process.

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