Russell Crowe and the Choice Supply Side Problem

Bar scene from A Beautiful Mind: What if no one goes for the blonde? We don’t get in each other’s way, and we don’t insult the other girls. That’s the only way we win. That’s the only way we all get laid.

Adam Smith said, the best result comes from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself, right? That’s what he said, right? Incomplete. Incomplete! The best result will come when everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself — and the group.*

Boston has 5 major choice providers. Catholic schools. METCO. Pilot schools. Exam schools. Charters. Separately, none of us has more than 10% market share. Together, 30+%.

As providers — we all go for the blonde, we promote only our own particular version of choice. We don’t cooperate. Many of us don’t even know one another.

What would it mean for providers to cooperate around a pro-parent-option agenda? We’d have to sacrifice. Unfortunately, some more than others. This makes initiating cooperation harder.

For example, pilot schools already get the cold shoulder from their union; joining a pro-parent agenda would inflame things. Similarly, METCO already has uneasy relations with partner districts. Meanwhile, Catholic schools lose customers to “free” providers of education.

Charters are like the dorkiest guy in the bar (I identify!): not much to lose by cooperating, since we’re already on a political island, and have long waiting lists.

If any reader is channeling John Nash, and knows of a city where various parent choice providers have united, please be heard in the comment section!

-Guestblogger GGW

*The movie gets Adam Smith all wrong, but whatever.

3 Replies to “Russell Crowe and the Choice Supply Side Problem”

  1. GGW is definitely wild! But I think your point here about cooperation within the choice sector is a great compliment to the portfolio model being attempted by large urban districts such as NYC, Philly, and now NOLA. I would expand your suggestions to include districts as potential cooperators/collaborators. In the current context for urbans, no one provider can do it all. Districts have to become more savvy about collaborating with other in-school and out-of-school providers. Check out the Annenberg Institute’s Smart Education Systems ( new (old) idea that calls for cross-sector partnerships that upset the status quo and help catapult student achievement beyond proficiency towards excellence.

  2. Is it bad for charters to be associated with private school ideas like Catholic schools or vouchers? Wouldn’t that just make more people think charter schools are not public schools when in fact they are public?

  3. In keeping with your economics theme, there is a flaw, I think, in the Game Theory reasoning of cooperation.

    There are a finite number of students and a finite number of dollars (it may not seem like but there is) for education. Each group is competing for other scarce resources, including teachers, facilities, and other items.

    Cooperation is a great idea and a broad concept of cooperation is possible, sort of like a trade association for choice schools, but cooperation to improve market share is only going to cause problems later on and can’t really work in an economic sense.

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