December 2, 2013

Rapacious Piano Teachers

Had a little fun with this on Facebook (actually, somebody else started it). But it is Kim Strassel, and it cannot pass without post:

In March of this year, a small nonprofit in Cincinnati--the Music Teachers National Association--received a letter from the FTC. The agency was investigating whether the association was engaged in, uh, anticompetitive practices.

This was bizarre, given that the MTNA has existed since 1876 solely to advance the cause of music study and support music teachers. The 501(c)(3) has about 22,000 members, nearly 90% of them piano teachers, including many women who earn a modest living giving lessons in their homes. The group promotes music study and competitions and helps train teachers. Not exactly U.S. Steel.

The association;s sin, according to the feds, rested in its code of ethics. The code lays out ideals for members to follow--a commitment to students, colleagues, society. Tucked into this worthy document was a provision calling on teachers to respect their colleagues' studios, and not actively recruit students from other teachers.

That's a common enough provision among professional organizations (doctors, lawyers), yet the FTC avers that the suggestion that Miss Sally not poach students from Miss Lucy was an attempt to raise prices for piano lessons. Given that the average lesson runs around $30 an hour, and that some devoted teachers still give lessons for $5 a pop, this is patently absurd.

Anti-competitive price fixers!

We're from the government, and here to help. Posted by John Kranz at December 2, 2013 7:02 PM
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