February 13, 2013

The Feb. 11 front-page article “Charters’ growth raises questions,” on how “the District is on track to become a city where a majority of children are educated not in traditional public schools but in public charters,” provided much for the District’s children and their parents to cheer about. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) struck the right note about this when he said that competition has forced both school sectors to improve.

On the other hand, D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), chair of the education committee, is wrongheaded in his complaint that the District has let charters and traditional schools function in isolation for too long; his belief that the council needs to “help manage this [competition] process”; his unhappiness over “schools that pop up everywhere”; and his vow to push for “a momentary pause” in this competition “so we can make sure that we’re all growing in the same direction.”

We as a society have a long-standing and fundamental commitment to free, open, uninhibited and thus unmanaged competition throughout virtually every sector of the economy. There is no apparent reason this commitment should not apply to the provision of education at all levels. This idea has been a core value since enactment of the Sherman Antitrust Act more than 120 years ago. And, as the Supreme Court said 38 years ago, “the central message of the Sherman Act is that a business entity must find new customers . . . by competing successfully rather than by arranging treaties with its competitors.”

Robert A. Skitol, Potomac