Recently, a report on Public School Choice, the program that gave outside operators and inside innovators an opportunity to take over schools in Los Angeles Unified, reminded us of why it’s difficult to mingle markets and politics. Creating an unrestricted market is no more possible in a school district than it is on Wall Street.

At the outset, Public School Choice took a page from the market advocates’ playbook and sought to increase and diversify the supply of school operators.

Public School Choice involved 131 schools over four years. It set up a competitive request-for-proposal process similar to those used by businesses or governments that contract for services, starting with some of the dozens of new schools that the district’s $19.5 billion school-building program had brought into being.

It set up a competitive request-for-proposal process similar to those used by businesses or governments that contract for services.

Seventy-nine proposals were written: 41 from charter schools, four from the independent Partnership for Los Angeles Schools that Villaraigosa had founded, and 34 from innovative LAUSD administrators and teachers who had suddenly been given the green light to come forward with fresh ideas.

Some of the members, who had supported the concept of choice, were not so keen on having outside operators take over schools in their communities. By their vote, the board tilted the playing field toward internal applicants.

External competition decreased further in subsequent rounds, and most of the schools on the superintendent’s failing-schools list faced no external competition at all.

In addition, the charter operators who were eager to start a new school in a shiny new building, were not lining up to take on chronically underperforming schools. In the first year of PSC, about a quarter of the schools faced no competition. Over the four years, only 18 of the 68 plans for the 40 underperforming “focus” schools came from external applicants.

Read the full article on Public School Choice by Charles Taylor Kerchner and at EdSource