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Ignoring Reality: Public Schools Outperform Private Schools

Marc Jampole
October 30, 2013

by Marc Jampole

51hinngRjiL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_It doesn’t surprise me that somebody figured out how to prove that public schools outperform private schools.

And it doesn’t surprise me that this seminal study is being ignored by the mainstream news media. As of one day after Atlantic released its article reviewing The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, a Google search yielded but one article covering the important findings of authors Sarah Theule Lubienski and Christopher A Lubienski.

The Lubienskis took into the account the effects of affluence, disabilities and other background factors and found that then public schools outperformed private schools over the past twenty years. According to Atlantic, the Lubienskis report that the Educational Testing Service, Stanford and Notre Dame all took a look at the same statistics — datasets they call it — and came to the same conclusions.

The Lubienskis aren’t saying that public school students score higher, because test comparisons show that the average private school student scores higher. But the private school student is likely to be wealthier, come from a stable family, not have a disability and not have suffered early life trauma. Correct for these factors — in a sense only compare apples that fell from the private school tree with those that fell from the public school tree — and the public school wins hands down. Not only that, but far from the crisis in public education that many see, the Lubienskis make a strong case that public school are doing a fine job educating the youth of America.

The results of the study don’t surprise me because I live in the real world, and in the real world the best get paid the most. Now I’m not saying that Alex Rodriguez deserves to make more money than Miguel Cabrera, but that they and every other professional ball player make a lot more money than minor leaguers, those in foreign leagues, semi-pros and beer league softballers.

Tears happyThe best lawyers tend to make the most money. The best accountants tend to make the most money. The best writers — business and entertainment — tend to make the most money. The best musicians tend to make the most money. Forget the obscene fact that Beyonce makes about 200 times what the concertmaster for the New York Philharmonic does, they both do quite well when compared to the average piano teacher who gives lessons through the Jewish Community Center or the YMCA.

Public school teachers make more money than private school teachers. Doesn’t it make sense that they would therefore do a better job and that public schools would therefore do better in quantitative comparisons? I know that there are some very competent and dedicated private school teachers, but in general, how could they outperform public school teachers, who make so much more money?

Thus my lack of surprise to learn that public school students outperform private school students on a level playing field and that public schools and their teachers are more open to innovations and trying new learning techniques.

Nor was I surprised that the news media has ignored the Lubienski book. One of the ideological tenets of the mass media is that the private sector always outperforms the public sector. In the case of education, it’s just not so, but the news media filters out this important news for ideological reasons.

The news media, owned as they are by large companies, have come to share big business’ disdain for unions, especially over the past thirty years. The news media will certainly give fair coverage to both sides of most labor disputes, but in feature coverage they give far greater voice to anti-union pundits, writers, politicians, theories and events than to those in support of unions. Weakening unions is one key strategy in the thirty-year class war in which wealth has been transferred from the middle class and poor up the economic ladder to the wealthy.

Charter schools, vouchers for private schools, school and school district takeovers — virtually all right-wing school reform efforts attack public school teachers because they are unionized and therefore make a decent wage. As supporters of this campaign against public teachers unions, it only makes sense that the news media ignores important books such as The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools.

Marc Jampole is a poet and writer who runs Jampole Communications, a public relations and communications firm in Pittsburgh. He blogs several times a week at OpEdge.