Imagine you lived in a city where a single entity operated 86% of the schools. Its employees are so protective of their exclusivity, they raise millions for politicians to pass legislation preventing any meaningful competition. Their dominance is so secure, they leave their classrooms just as the fall semester begins, pledging not to return until their customers pay them substantially more. This despite the fact their prices are among the highest in the country and their graduation rates are among the lowest.
You would be correct to identify this as a prime example of monopolistic behavior, a danger in any industry, particularly one as important as schooling.
Welcome to Chicago today.
The Chicago Teachers Union is entering their second day of a work stoppage that is keeping over 350,000 children and teenagers out of class. Thanks to the union’s persistent lobbying against charter schools, vouchers, and other means to expand school choice, those students have nowhere else to learn. This makes CTU’s strike extraordinarily unethical.
For the sake of Chicago’s schoolchildren, it’s time to begin an antitrust investigation of the CTU.
The CTU features all the hallmarks of a coercive monopoly. It is a private organization whose members provide exclusive teaching services to the Chicago Public Schools. It maximizes its revenues by lobbying government for greater numbers of teachers who are required by law to become dues-paying members. And it has led the charge for increased government spending on its members’ salaries and benefits, demanding a 30% raise as contract negotiations began earlier this year.
However, the CTU is not your run-of-the-mill monopoly. It’s actually much worse.
Because it uses government as a tool to acquire and protect its privileges, CTU is a government monopoly. Government intervention and cronyism have created a situation in which taxpayers have no choice but to pay for schools that fail around half of Chicago students by almost every measure.
Sadly, school performance will have no reason to improve after a new contract is inked. Because CTU’s monopoly will have been reinforced by the school board’s probable capitulation on job security and evaluations, teachers will face fewer incentives to serve students better.
Better schools for Chicago’s children are possible and exist today. A study by the RAND Corporation found charter school students “had higher ACT scores, graduation rates and college entrance rates than their peers in traditional public schools.” And charters are closed if they don’t perform. But only a relative handful of Chicago’s students are able to benefit from charter schools because the CTU has worked hard to limit them.
It’s time for government to stop enabling this private organization to wield so much power over Chicago children’s futures. No special interest should have complete control over the schooling of thousands.
As a first step toward real school reform, it’s time to launch an antitrust investigation on the CTU.