Reed Hastings of Netflix at Wired Business Conference

Chris Anderson produced an excellent Reed Hastings interview during the Wired conference.Anderson is good at asking a short question, then getting out of the way. We learned a lot about Netflix strategy and were very pleased that Chris asked Reed the school choice question.

Hastings outlined his view that a key reason charter schools can be so much more effective is the absence of the elected school board. Which is frequently populated by wannabe politicians as the first, temporary step on their way to running for city council, etc. until they land themselves a lifetime seat at the trough. The entire interview is worth watching just for the the education segment.

More from WSJ 2008:

(…) “After Pure Software, I had a bunch of money, and I didn’t really want to buy yachts and such things,” he said. “I wanted to find something important to do. And I started looking at education, trying to figure out why our education is lagging when our technology is increasing at great rates and there’s great innovation in so many other areas — health care, biotech, information technology, movie-making. Why not education?”

Mr. Hastings, who taught high- school math in Swaziland from 1983 to 1986, found a vehicle for innovation in charter schools. Naturally, Mr. Hastings brought an entrepreneur’s sensibility to the endeavor.

“We’re finding out more and more that competitive forces can provide great improvement in services — telephones and airlines being obvious examples,” he said. “Now, those are for-profit sectors, but you can obviously see this in the nonprofit sector as well. There’s not one environmental nonprofit. There are dozens, and they all compete for impact and prestige and donor dollars. And they have different approaches to the problems and that’s healthy.”

Mr. Hastings said K-12 education is “the last big government monopoly in America” and that “charter schools are about breaking up the public monopoly, with all its rules and bureaucracy.” In California, “the rule book for schools is this big,” he said, spreading his hand as wide as a phone book. Charter schools “give teachers a way to form their own public schools, more freedom to express their craft, and make schools voluntary for students. No one is assigned. This sets up a very healthy model that provides for innovation because the innovators, the innovative teachers, are drawn to these schools.”

Hastings is on the board of KIPP Academy, the largest group of high performing charter schools.