Jobs on education: We’ve forgotten that the customers are the parents

The Huffington Post got a copy of Walter Isaacson’s forthcoming biography of Steve Jobs, focusing particularly on a revealing conversation between Jobs and President Obama. In his meeting with the president, during which he said Obama was “headed for a one-term presidency,” Jobs criticized America’s education system, saying “it was crippled by union work rules,” Isaacson reports. “Until the teachers’ unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform.”

Lest this be a surprise to the center-left, Jobs embraced education reform generally and school vouchers specifically with even more vigor during a 1995 interview with the Smithsonian Institution:

I’ve been a very strong believer in that what we need to do in education is to go to the full voucher system … One of the things I feel is that, right now, if you ask who are the customers of education, the customers of education are the society at large, the employers who hire people, things like that. But ultimately I think the customers are the parents. Not even the students but the parents …

… in schools people don’t feel that they’re spending their own money. They feel like it’s free, right? No one does any comparison shopping. A matter of fact if you want to put your kid in a private school, you can’t take the forty-four hundred dollars a year out of the public school and use it, you have to come up with five or six thousand of your own money. I believe very strongly that if the country gave each parent a voucher for forty-four hundred dollars that they could only spend at any accredited school several things would happen. Number one schools would start marketing themselves like crazy to get students. Secondly, I think you’d see a lot of new schools starting. I’ve suggested as an example, if you go to Stanford Business School, they have a public policy track; they could start a school administrator track. You could get a bunch of people coming out of college tying up with someone out of the business school, they could be starting their own school. You could have twenty-five year old students out of college, very idealistic, full of energy instead of starting a Silicon Valley company, they’d start a school. I believe that they would do far better than any of our public schools would. The third thing you’d see is I believe, is the quality of schools again, just in a competitive marketplace, start to rise. Some of the schools would go broke. A lot of the public schools would go broke. There’s no question about it. It would be rather painful for the first several years.

Avatar photo

BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit

One Comment

Steve Jobs is right. Rahn Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, is trying to get the teacher’s union to agree to lengthen the school day. High school student’s currently leave school at 2 pm. The union will not agree to it. The Teacher’s Union serves teachers and administrators, not students. Since you can’t get rid of it you’ll have to go around it.

Comments are closed.