Friday, April 16, 2010

A business model for schools.... a reader disagrees.






The business model

can serve schools well

While I normally agree with much of what Mark Peterson has to say, I have to take issue with the premise of his April 10 column suggesting that schools should not be run like businesses. Here’s why;

1. While the function of business is to make a profit, it can do so only if it satisfies its customers.

2. When a business faces hard times it works extra hard to provide more rather than less service to the client or customer. This is accomplished by reducing overhead (cutting frills, layoffs, economizing).

3. The function of a school district is to provide quality education in a manner that satisfies its customers (read students and taxpayers).

4. When our school district faced hard times it moved first to cut services to the students, raise their fees etc. This, of course, does not make for satisfied customers. Would we not be better served if the district used the business approach of short changing the “customer” only after all other options are exhausted?

Peterson rightfully talks about social responsibility but one can’t have his cake and also eat it. This responsibility must extend to the student first but also to persons underwriting the cost of the process. These persons have a perfect right to expect the school administration to run the district in a business-like manner.

As to the administration being “chock full of first-rate business experience,” a glance back at facility maintenance policy, referendum proposals and capacity planning makes that statement doubtful at best.

Finally, we should all keep in mind that the public only elects extremists when its concerns are ignored.

Jim Rubenzer West Bend

3 comments:

wbfreethinker said...

I have some issues with this. First of all, education is a service industry. Depending on the size of the budget deficit, reductions to service are going to be inevitable. I am also skeptical that business will try harder to offer more services to their customers when times are tough. You only need to take a look at the airlines to see that services can get get reduced. And if a business is working extra hard to provide more service to customers, the busiiness is doing so to increase its revenues. And if it is providing more services then they need to let their customers know this so they need to invest in some advertising. And those new services themselves will cost money that the business wasn't spending before.

Some business may choose to finance their operating costs for a time to get them through a downturn in revenue so that they don't have to reduce services or the quality of their product, so again businesses aren't exactly like schools in that sense either.

One thing I don't get with all this talk about needing to run schools like a business is why I see business people like John Torinus, the West Bend Chamber of Commerce, John Duwell, Kevin Steiner, Joe Carlson, Lynn Corrazi and CFAC member Mark Lustig generally support how the current school board is running the district. All of these folks are successful business executives or owners. Does their business experience not count because they don't see the perceived mis-management that people like Randy, Dave and Owen do? It seems they want only conservative anti-tax, anti-government business people on the school board. All others need not apply.

What I also don't understand is how Pat Strachota, Glen Grothman and even Owen Robinson, Dave Wiegand and Randy Marquardt can say that the district has been managed well and many good things are in place, but then turn around and accuse the current leadership of wasting money and mismanaging the operations of the district.

I definitely agree that we need to run the schools cost-effectively and efficently. I just don't think it is as cut and dry as the Marquardt/Wiegand crowd would have us believe.

Mpeterson said...

I liked Mr. Rubenzer's comments very much, although I disagree with most of them... I was more interested in the inherent contradictions of treating education as a business rather than running it in a business-like way.

I'd argue that students aren't 'customers' in anything like the way someone at Kohl's is a customer. Education is more of a utility than an industry.

Be that as it may, I find it unlikely that Joe Carlson could be considered, on any possible measure, anything less than a first rate business man with a first rate mind for finances and the character to act in the best interests of the kids and taxpayers. The rest of your list proves your point completely (and mine): the board had more than enough experience.... the Chamber and the board of Realtors thought so at any rate. What the board was lacking was not experience, but catchy (Koch family funded) Tea Party slogans.

DanBack said...

"What I also don't understand is how Pat Strachota, Glen Grothman and even Owen Robinson, Dave Wiegand and Randy Marquardt can say that the district has been managed well and many good things are in place, but then turn around and accuse the current leadership of wasting money and mismanaging the operations of the district. "

For the most part I think these people look at all this shit as a game. I mean Owen himself on his profile at B&S says "I love the blood sport of politics." Politics is sports for dorks.