I have posted a number of comments on the subject of whether, when and how schools are like businesses. This reader says that public education is not a business.

Of course, it is important to understand that the purpose of the accountability measures and the choice policies is to get us all in the habit of thinking we are shoppers, consumers of education services that compete for our children and our dollars.

Parents are supposed to take the school letter grades and go shopping. They are supposed to teach the teacher evaluations and ask for a different teacher. This is supposed to reform schools and make kids smarter somehow. But the real purpose is to get us to view our public services and public goods with a consumer mentality. You can begin to see how nutty this is. Can we shop for a different police department? Can we shop to change our public parks and beaches? No, but we can turn over their management to private vendors. You see, when you start thinking like a consumer, then you forget the distinction between a public service and a business venture.

If they get enough of us to think like this, then we will acquiesce as they privatize everything so we can shop for everything. Or have the illusion of shopping, the illusion of consumer choice. Kind of like when you go to the grocery story and see fifty different cereals and then discover they were all made by the same company.

The problem with this comment is that it is incorrect about the definition of a business. In the second line of the first paragraph, the commenter states:“Schools are a business — they have employees, labor costs, capital costs, and budgets.”Having employees, labor costs, capital costs, and budgets is not the definition of a business. A well-to-do household could have all those things, and nobody would claim it’s a business. Many charities have those things, and they are not businesses. And of course, governments have those things, and they are not businesses.

The real definition of a business can be found in the last line of the first paragraph, although the commenter just casts it aside:

“The critical difference between schools and what we commonly think of as a business — Verizon or Citibank — is that the ultimate purpose of the schools is to provide the service (educate the children) while, for the conventional service business such as Verizon or Citibank, the provision of the service is simply a means to the ultimate purpose of making a profit for the business’ owners.”

Yes, businesses’ ultimate purpose is to make a profit for the business owners. That’s what makes a business a business. It’s the one integral, universal trait of all businesses. That is the definition of a business: It makes a profit for the business owners. That’s it.

Public Education does not meet the one actual requirement of what a business is.

To say it has a few things in common so it must be the same is just wrong. And to work from that premise leads to more poor logic, misguided decisions, and poor outcomes.

Public Eduction is not a business.