What is an Education Consumers Association?
An Education Consumers Association (ECA) is local or state level citizen group that is dedicated to empowering parents, school board members, employers, and all others who have a consumer’s stake in public schooling. Just as teacher organizations and other educator groups represent the unique interests of their members, ECAs represent the consumer’s interests. It is like a parent network but broader and includes all community members who pay for or make use of the local schools. An ECA represents the interests of education’s consumers, not education’s providers.What do ECAs do?
Local school systems are a publicly funded monopoly. Customer satisfaction is not a requirement for them to stay in business. With little accountability and assured funding, schools have little economic incentive to do more than maintain a positive appearance. ECAs provide a way for parents and interested citizens to more accurately assess the quality of their local schools and to deal with them as informed consumers.
How to Form an Education Consumer Association
It only takes a few steps to get started: Identify some likely partners, explain your idea, start networking, and prepare for growth.
Creating a New Relationship between Consumers and Schools ECAs have an enormous potential for impacting school outcomes because they fill a void in the conversations about education that take place in almost all communities. Most school districts have PTAs but they are a medium for collaboration, not a forum for consumer advocacy. An organization voicing parent and taxpayer concerns about third-rate learning outcomes, for example, is apt to be a significant addition to the public conversation about local schools. Typically, school districts dominate such discussions because they have communications resources dedicated to maintaining a favorable public image and to discouraging the opposite.
With an ECA acting as a voice for local consumers, tenor of the relationship between schools and consumers can be much different. Consumer concerns cannot so easily be ignored, dismissed, or discredited.
Information Needed by the Consuming Public
The need for an independent, consumer-friendly source of information often becomes especially evident when innovative school policy changes are under consideration. The question facing the public is: Can the representations of a school system that may have been doing a mediocre job be trusted as a guide to a significant educational change?