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January 2013 Policy Study, Number 13-1


School Choice: Not if the Unions Have Any Say


Appointed School Administrators



Administrators of government school districts are another frequently cited source in negative school choice articles.


When thought of as CEOs of monopolies, their anti-competitive point of view comes as no surprise. The first instinct of any defender of a monopoly is to attack a new innovative entrant in the marketplace, not to compete. Similarly, instead of responding to the innovation and choice brought by the presence of an online school by improving their own educational offerings, school administrators have attacked the quality of their new competitors. You need only to follow the money to understand why.


In the minds of many administrators, students are not wards to be educated. Instead, students represent enrollments valued for the tax dollars they bring to a traditional school budget’s bottom line. The larger the budget, the larger the administrator’s salary and benefits.


Below are some recent comments reported in the Iowa media from K-12 administrators and college professors questioning education choice.


University of Northern Iowa College of Education, Professor Emeritus Barry Wilson:


In October the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice released a new report analyzing administrative overhead in government school districts, from data by the U.S. Department of Education.


Their analysis found that “even though Iowa’s K-12 student population declined by slightly less than one percent between fiscal 1992 and 2009, the number of administrators and other nonteaching staff jumped by nearly 26 percent.”[34] The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported on this information, appropriately raising the issue of administrative overhead versus teachers.


In response, Professor Wilson called the report a “piece of trash,” and further denigrated the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice saying that as a result of their work, “Public education is being trashed by people who see it as a business opportunity.”[35]


Hudson Community Superintendent Tony Voss:


“We need kids and young adults that when they graduate from our institutions and go on to colleges and careers that are able to work collaboratively and communicate with each other,” said Tony Voss, superintendent at Hudson, which enrolls 720 students. When commenting specifically about online schools he said, “I’m not convinced sitting in front of a computer screen six to eight hours a day that they know how to communicate. They are becoming more and more isolated and withdrawn.”[36]


With fewer than 720 students K-12 – only 251 in high school – and losing more each year, Hudson is one of Iowa’s financially challenged districts. Enrollment is down from almost 800 in 2006-2007 and expected to fall to less than 650 by the 2016-2017 school year.[37] Yet two items in this year’s budget – almost $245,000 to construct a high school parking lot and Voss’ approximate $100,000 annual salary – represent a cost of nearly $480 per pupil, which will continue to rise.[38]


When evaluating school administrators’ criticism of school choice, journalists and taxpayers must keep in mind the fact that administrators have direct financial interests in dissuading students in their districts from enrolling in alternative schools.


As illustrated by these examples many elected officials and school administrators opposed to school choice have close financial ties with and among each other, that call into question their ability to fully and independently evaluate or support these options. The financial ties exclude the children and parents who are supposed to be at the center of public education – they do not control the money or the decision makers, for their own benefit.




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