The world of publicly funded education is comprised of numerous institutions, agencies, organizations, and oversight bodies that to one degree or another depend on the success of the $700 billion/year education industry. They range from the schools and colleges themselves, to teacher organizations, to vendors of books and desks, and to academic interest groups. Even the agencies that fu
nd and regulate education are shaped by a type of political influence called “regulatory capture.” All of these parties share in the prosperity of the industry and thus are sympathetic to the industry’s view of itself. In contrast to the industry norm, the Education Consumers Foundation is dedicated exclusively to serving the interests of education’s consumers. It works in behalf of the parties who furnish the students and the money, not those that benefit financially from the reputation and growth of the industry. The Education Consumers Foundation is like the Consumers Union (the organization that publishes Consumers Reports), except that we focus on education policy and practice. Our success is tied to the success of consumers in obtaining value and quality, not on the industry’s prosperity. Our perspective and commitment makes a critical difference in the services that we offer. Buyers and sellers have competing interests, and organizations that attempt to serve both inevitably favor one side or the other. Typically, it is the consumer’s interest that is sacrificed. As was demonstrated in the infamous ENRON case, subtle leverage exercised by sellers can have a huge impact on outcomes [see Chronicle of Higher Education, June 6, 2003]. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the largest and best-known sources of educational information have their feet firmly planted on both sides of the street. One visible result of education’s seller-friendly marketplace is the industry’s history of fads and frauds. Education has a long record of implementing schemes that serve no one but the industry’s internal stakeholders. They are expensive and poorly tested. In recent years, faddish innovation has been targeted by agencies such as the federal What Works Clearinghouse; but programs founded on sound evidence remain the exception. Programs, policies, and practices that are poorly tested and at high risk of failure can often be identified before they become educational and financial disasters, but they rarely are. The underlying reason is that only buyers benefit from candid assessments of products and services. The industry benefits from “cautious optimism,” and the vast majority of experts work for the industry. Fads and failures are rarely identified until the money is spent. The cycle of fad and failure has been extremely durable because the parties who are most concerned with results—i.e., parents, school board members, legislators, employers, and concerned citizens—have had little choice but to rely on expert sources that are a part of the industry. With the emergence of the Education Consumers Foundation, they can easily find experts who are on their side. What We Do
Our core mission is to be a trustworthy source of education research and policy analysis for education’s consumers. We have a proven record of commitment to the interests of consumers. We are watchdogs that bark. Whether you are a parent who is trying to understand the style of teaching used in your child’s classroom or a legislator who is looking for a fair-minded assessment of a proposed remedial education program, we can point you to useful, consumer-friendly information. If your question can better be answered by experts outside our Network, we will help you find a resource that is sympathetic to your interests. How We Help
Our website is continually updated with the research, analysis, and background information needed to make informed judgments about education issues. Our Consultants Network enables you to find a consumer-friendly expert source on most educational issues. Contact us if you need a Second Opinion regarding a particular issue. Our ClearingHouse enables you to discuss your questions and share your experience with other consumers and consumer-friendly experts. Our Education Consumers Associations are grassroot groups of parents and others who have a consumer’s stake in education. Educators are welcome but asked to wear their consumer’s cap. If you would like to support the Education Consumers Foundation in its work on behalf of parents, students, citizens, and their elected representatives, please visit our Support page to make your contribution.