According to the Deputy Prime Minister, employee-owned companies such as John Lewis tend to perform better than other companies. This is hardly news, as the majority of successful companies around the world have been using employee share ownership schemes for decades to help attract, incentivise and retain key staff. However, Clegg’s desire to promote and encourage more companies to follow their lead, raises an intriguing question – if employee-owned companies tend to perform better, why not employee-owned schools? Why not extend the idea of ‘responsible capitalism’ into education? As teachers play such an important role in children’s schooling, then any incentives which can encourage teachers to perform better, clearly have enormous potential to do good.
This idea is not as far-fetched as some may think. For example, in 2000 Richard Vedder (Distinguished Professor of Economics at Ohio University), published a short publication titled “Can Teachers Own Their Own Schools?“, in which he presents a bold plan to allow teachers to become the owners of schools, thereby acquiring an attractive financial stake in the education process. His proposal draws inspiration from Margaret Thatcher’s privatization of government council housing, privatization reforms in Latin America, and the E.S.O.P. (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) movement in the United States and he concludes that if teachers could become shareholders in different chains of for-profit schools then this would help to foster “vibrant school communities with increased parental involvement and the innovation and efficiency essential to produce educational excellence”.
Unfortunately in the UK the Deputy Primate Minister still wants to discriminate against, discourage and restrict all for-profit companies from investing in education, which means that the sector as a whole will be denied the benefits of having employee owned schools. It is also important to note that this is only one of numerous different benefits which for-profit companies could bring to the education table, if only politicians such as Nick Clegg would give them a fair and equal chance. Nick Clegg’s on-going approach to education does not represent ‘responsible capitalism’, but deeply ‘irresponsible government’.
This blog by James B Stanfield was originally published at ASI on 21 January 2012