When falling demand and inflexible management collide

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There’s a rather curious editorial in today’s Globe. I don’t necessarily quibble with its basic premise, that the City of Boston should not be on the hook for the transportation costs of those students whose parents choose to send them to a private or parochial school. At one point, however, the editorial states that Boston’s

infrastructure and staffing can support thousands more children than currently attend the public schools. The estimated $2 million spent on busing Boston’s private school students would be better used to offset cuts in public classrooms.

This struck me as a paradoxical juxtaposition. If there is so much excess capacity in the system, then should we not be encouraging cuts, not looking for ways to offset them?

The Globe’s editorial comes on the heels of a report yesterday from Los Angeles, where it seems the city’s charter schools – which I was surprised to learn educate roughly the same number of students as there are in all of Boston’s public schools – are weathering budget cuts better than LAUSD schools because of growing enrollments and greater flexibility to make budgetary decisions at the school-site level.

Not to extend the metaphor too far, but we also learned yesterday that President Obama’s administration forced GM CEO Rick Wagoner to resign after the company’s February progress report came with a request for an additional $16 billion in bail out money. An inflexible managerial model and falling demand seem to be the culprit there as well.