04/09/2017

School Choice, Uber And Accountability

Larry Sand, California Policy Center

Betsy DeVos’ ridesharing analogy is spot on, but draws Randi’s wrath.

 At the Brookings Institution last week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos gave a talk in which she drew parallels between school choice and the ascendancy of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. “Just as the traditional taxi systems revolted against ridesharing, so too does the education establishment feel threatened by the rise of school choice. In both cases, the entrenched status quo has resisted models that empower individuals.”

DeVos’ comparison sent American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten into a snit, fuming in a tweet that DeVos’ comments are “incredibly tone deaf and shocking.” Then, she added, “Is she equating kids to cab riders & teachers are drivers? Cab drivers are hard-working pros, but teachers have advanced degrees to teach.”

First, Devos did not “equate” anything. She simply made an analogy. And the advanced degree crack is misguided, as not all teachers have them, and many of them that do could have learned more about how to teach kids by driving a cab than by going to a school of education. (Having spent time in ed school, the classroom and the front seat of a taxi, trust me on this one.)

The union boss can say whatever she wants, but the analogy is apt, if not original. In 2014, NRO’s Jim Geraghty wrote a piece on education in which he claimed that “Our problems today are massive. We need solutions to match.” He suggested that we need a complete overhaul of our education system on a grand scale and at a rapid pace, and that “we need an Uber for failing schools.”

Most recently, Jason Bedrick, Director of Policy at EdChoice, wrote a blog post on the subject in which he states, “Real Accountability Is Choice, Not Regulation.” Bedrick is, of course, correct and the title of his piece points to the heart of the Big Guv-Big Union v. School Choice debate.

According to the bureaucrats, technocrats, Randi Weingarten and other establishment types, we need a zillion rules and government regulations so that providers of transportation, education, etc. can be held “accountable.” But as Bedrick points out, “Clearly Uber and Lyft drivers are much more accountable than taxi drivers because they are directly accountable to the consumer. Passengers rate their drivers based on the quality of their experience, so drivers tend to work hard to ensure that passengers have a good experience.” My involvement with Uber backs Bedrick up. No government-regulated monopoly taxi company ever asked about my experience with a driver. The Uber cars I have ridden in tend to be cleaner, with friendlier and more dependable drivers than city-run taxis. And when was the last time a city-run taxi driver told you in a text message exactly when he was going to pick you up?

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