Jobs and Yglesias on Tenure

Following-up on Jonathan's post on Jobs and Dell dishing on education, I noticed that Matt Yglesias has a discussion of this point here. Yglesias makes the (not unreasonable) point that having the ability to hire and fire teachers will be useful only if there's actually a big backlog of would-be teachers who can't manage to get hired thanks to tenure. While that state of affairs certainly obtains for, say, college humanities faculty positions, it's not so clear that it does elsewhere. In other words, being able to hire and fire teachers won't help so much unless there are other good teachers out there waiting in the wings. Since that doesn't seem to be the case, getting all excited about tenure for public school teachers is, perhaps, much ado about little.

On a semi-related note, I find it interesting that one point of agreement among the bureaucrats at the Department of Labor and the marketists at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is that private school teachers are actually paid less than public school teachers. This strikes me as hugely counter-intuitive, particularly since private school teachers already do compete on the open market. Shouldn't that tend to drive salaries up as good private schools bid on the best private school teachers?

I can think of a few possible reasons for the odd results.

    A. Parents of private school students also have to spend money of public school teacher and thus have less money available for private tuition.
    B. The statistics for private school pay include information from religious schools, which are often inexpensive and poorly funded.
    C. Private school teachers tend to be recent college graduates who move into other professions after a few years.
    D. We don't actually care about education as much as we say that we care about education.

Still, given that there is already at least some competition for elementary and secondary-school teachers, it's interesting that the market is, thus far at least, driving teacher pay down rather than up.

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