Too Little of a Good Thing

CascadeNewLogoBy William Newell

The recent Portland School Board decision to expand enrollment at Benson Polytechnic High School exemplifies an odd mindset within the public education system. The board’s decision allows Benson to increase its enrollment from 821 to 850 students, due to public outcry over the limit. Benson was designed to handle 2,000 students, yet the school educates fewer than half that number because of district policy.

When businesses provide customers with quality products and services, they attract even more customers. Expansion is a sign of success, and businesses profit from it. Sadly, the same can’t be said of public education. When a public school succeeds, its enrollment gets capped. Its success is considered a drain on other schools: If a school is in high demand, students will flock there and neglect their “neighborhood” schools. Yet, this is the very point of having a market. Poorly performing businesses fail and successful ones rise, but everyone benefits from success.

When schools fail to meet students’ needs, students should be able to attend schools that do. This is why the Benson situation is absurd. The school board shouldn’t limit quality public education. When Portland parents want more seats in schools like Benson, the board should find ways to give them more of the educational programs and opportunities that they demand―either by expanding that school or creating more such schools in the district.

William Newell is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization. He is a graduate of Willamette University.

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  • Bob Clark

    Someone made a boo boo with the title of this article, mixing the headline from one with the body of another. Doesn’t happen too often, thankfully.

    The basis for restricting Benson enrollment is the whole equality thing, supposedly preserving School District resources for other less successful schools. Such forced equality is mostly good for one thing: making all public schools equally poorly performing. It’s called a Soviet Style planned mismatch of supply and demand.

  • Dick Winningstad

    Get your priorities straight Mr. Newell. We need more lawyers and social workers. Not machinists and other skilled laborers.

    • WDThompson

      Well said, Mr Winningstad. But what else can we expect from an organization which believes free enterprise is not as good as becoming a governmental employee? I taught against being on the roll of Takers rather than Producers for 19 years. I left the classroom to open my own shoe repair shop. Our daughters were home schooled. Common Core is a horrible concept for education, but wonderful for indoctrination.

      • DavidAppell

        So because you opened a business, everyone should?

        • Dick Winningstad

          So what’s your point?

          • DavidAppell

            That there are many ways to succeed at, and enjoy, life, and opening one’s own business is only one of them, and not suitable for all people.

    • 3H

      Wow.. do you know what social workers do? How hard they work, and are the lowest paid of all the professions?

      • Justin Saying

        Indeed, many wprk as you suggest, yet what say you about workers as-sociably described as “incompetents” yet protected by governmentium?

        Alas, we can’t SEIU’m for ‘damages’ to mutated patients and/or patience-tried attending common sense, e.g., Elian Gonzales topping a news-line iceberg, while larger masses of social work anomalies continue arising to surface.

        • 3H

          I was talking about social workers… not all, in fact I’d guess most, are not governmental employees. Many work for non-profits.
          As for incompetents – they exist in all organizations. And, I’m willing to bet they are evenly distributed, per capita, no matter what organization they work for. Business or government. Doesn’t matter. The only difference is that businesses are better able to hide incompetent employees in order to avoid bad press.

      • DavidAppell

        I used to live with a social worker. When she first secured her job, she came home and cried about how little her salary was.

        And yet still she worked her ass off.

        • 3H

          Because for so many of them, it is a calling rather than a way to make money.

          • DavidAppell

            A calling? So if they don’t make enough to feed their families, their families should just starve?

            Some calling.

          • 3H

            I believe they should make more.. my wife is a social worker. My point was that they pick the profession, and the work, despite the low pay because they truly want to help other people.

        • .

          You’re pose-ably referring to your mother, poor soul, who likely sought some kind of outsidfe compensation for bearing with such a jackass as you, DA!

      • Dick Winningstad

        I was not criticizing the work load/output of social workers. I was saying we need more trained workers and managers that produce things.

  • Jack Lord God

    Gee, why in the world would a school that is clearly in demand not expand to fulfill the demand, like any other business with a hot product?

    Could it possibly be that schools are simply a jobs program for those who reliably vote Democrat, our kids minds simply chum, a waste product that no one really cares about?

    Our education system is an outrage. We spend more per pupil than almost every other country. We get crap results.

    This is your first bullshit detector for the liberal. They will always decry that we spend more on health care than any other country, and have less to show for it. We do the same with education, yet God forbid we look at where the dollars go there. I know, I have done it with my state rep Phil Barnhart. Doe in the headlights all day long.

    Our education system is built on one thing – union membership supporting those in power. Our children are simply a waste product to be disposed of.

    Learn it.

    • DavidAppell

      Rupert Huse of Rupert Huse and Son ( of Springfield, Oregon wrote:
      why in the world would a school that is clearly in demand not expand to fulfill the demand, like any other business with a hot product?

      Duh…. maybe because education isn’t a business??

      You, Rupert, may be interested in selling ever more kinky gags ( in order to make more money. But that is not the goal of everyone in this world, especially educators.

      Thanks God.

      • .

        Appell, your gospel has more kinks in it than that crooked little street in your ho hum tone of San FranFreakshow.

  • Sally

    I strongly suspect the teachers union is what is truly blocking the new students. Why work harder than you have to???

  • DavidAppell

    Jee, public education isn’t a business. Who would have ever imagined???