Kirwan Commission enables education monopoly

Originially published in the Baltimore Sun

If you’ve played the board game Monopoly, you know the nature of that beast. Once you corner the market, you rake it in — while your customers head for the poor house.


So, it’s mystifying why we tolerate monopoly power in a vital sector that often fails to serve its clients well: our public schools.


Not all school systems are dismal, of course, and those with poor overall performance often have bright spots. Kudos to the intrepid staffers and teachers who gamely provide good service in these lumbering, crumbling, expensive monopolies.


Getting your kids out of harm’s way is only possible if you are a parent of means. Then you can afford private-school tuition or pull up stakes and move to a better (or less bad) district – though you’ll likely find rents and home prices higher there.


Everyone else copes with fallout from not just one but two monopolies. Customers deal with bloated bureaucracies that enforce system-wide dictates that often ill serve students and demoralize teachers. Upstream, those teachers bargain collectively – i.e., monopolistically – about compensation, exercising market power via occasional strikes or promising a bloc of votes to the politicians they can roll over most easily.


This “systemic monopolism” (to parallel woke terminology) explains much of the chronic underperformance of our public schools. In the last half-century, we have tripled real per-pupil spending in the U.S., yet many achievement scores are stubbornly flat. Sure, more money sometimes helps, but relying on monopolies to spend wisely is a fool’s errand.

Full article

Stephen J.K. Walters is the author of Boom Towns: Restoring the Urban American Dream and Chief Economist at the Maryland Public Policy Institute. His email is