Tag: school choice

Profits Do Oft Disprove Jesters

A new study of Sweden’s nationwide private school choice program reveals that both non-profit and for-profit private schools outperform state-run schools. And, after the most comprehensive set of controls for confounding variables, they do so by an almost identical (and highly statistically significant) margin.

Is there any reason, then, to prefer one form of private organization over the other? Yes. While non-profit private schools have tended to increase the size of their waiting lists in response to growing demand, their for-profit counterparts have done what all commercial enterprises would do in that circumstance: they’ve grown.

For more insights on this crucial distinction, have a look at Peje Emilsson’s presentation from our “Cloning Superman” event, which was broadcast on CSPAN.

If you want more good schools and fewer bad ones, make it easier for entrepreneurs and investors to team up with great educators, and let them earn profits or suffer losses in direct proportion to their ability to serve children.

I Hope to See a LOT More of This…

In Indiana the other night, two grassroots groups–one on the left, the other on the right–got together to discuss the merits of state schooling, home schooling, and private school choice programs. There doesn’t seem to have been any high-profile organization orchestrating the event. It was just two groups of citizens getting together to try to find the best way forward on education policy. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a trend.

“… your month, or even your year”

At one time or another over the past two decades, most school choice supporters have felt like the subject of the “Friends” theme song; that it hasn’t been their day, their week, their month, or even their year.

Things are different now. For one thing, choice programs have proliferated and grown over time, more are being introduced this year than perhaps ever before. And for another, well, this IS their week: the first national School Choice Week.

Events are being held all over the country to celebrate the idea that families should be able to easily choose the best schools for their kids, and that schools should have to compete for the privilege of serving them.

Here at Cato’s Center for Educational Freedom, we’re dipping into the future to see what it holds. How are large scale public/private school choice programs working out in countries that have had them for two or three decades? To find out, we’ve invited the founder of the largest private school chain in Sweden and a Chilean economist researching his own nation’s program to share their experiences and findings on Friday at noon.

Given how alien for-profit k-12 schooling appears to most Americans, imagine the reaction Peje Emilsson got in 1999 when he proposed founding a chain of for-profit schools in Sweden. Already the founder of a multinational communications firm, Peje broached the idea with some of his nation’s top entrepreneurs and economists. If you’d like to find out what they had to say, and how his idea has turned out in practice, you won’t get another chance any time soon. Hope you can join us on Friday – to register for free, click here!

If They Gave Out Awards for Good Policy Design…

…the folks in South Carolina would be top contenders for the gold.

Here’s the thing: all the evidence shows that educators are human beings like the rest of us and that education benefits from the same market freedoms and incentives that have driven progress in every other field. So how do you unleash those market forces so that our kids have the best shot at fulfilling their potentials? For a start:

  • You minimize regulation on what and how teachers teach.
  • You make it easy for families to choose whichever schools (or homeschooling) they deem best for their kids.
  • You encourage people to pay directly for their own children’s education to the greatest extent possible, reserving third-party payment (which is inherently problematic) to an as-needed basis

As a result, schools compete for the privilege of serving each and every child and they are attentive to parents’ demands because otherwise their livelihoods will suffer. Parents, in turn, become more invested in their children’s education—both literally and figuratively—because suddenly they have the power to exercise their educational responsibilities, and they expect to get value for the money they spend.

There are already a few school choice programs around the country that move in this direction, but a bill under consideration in South Carolina would do a better job than any of them. First, it offers tax cuts to parents who personally shoulder the cost of their own kids’ education, and those cuts are more meaningful in size than the ones currently offered in Illinois and Iowa. As Milton Friedman (and Pliny the Younger) rightly said: people are most careful spending their own money on their own families. Second, it extends its benefits to homeschoolers, which few other choice programs do. Third, it provides tuition assistance to low-income families through nonprofit scholarship organizations (SGOs) that are funded by private tax-creditable donations—better than any other system of third-party education aid.

If enacted, this program will not only provide a wonderful new range of educational options to South Carolina families, it will save taxpayers millions due to the tremendous inefficiency of the existing state-run monopoly school system. That combination of improved education options and reduced tax burden will in turn attract new businesses to the state, spurring economic growth. All in all, a pretty darn good deal.

Cloning “Superman”

We all know there are too few good schools and too many lousy ones. The trouble is, we lack a mechanism for reliably scaling up the former and crowding out the latter. Competitive markets perform this service in other fields, from coffee-shops to cell phones. Can the same thing work in education?

To find out, we’ve invited experts from both hemispheres to tell us what their nations have learned from decades of experience with private-school choice. Peje Emilsson founded the largest chain of for-profit private schools in Sweden’s nationwide voucher program. Humberto Santos has studied the academic performance of public schools, independent private schools, and chains of private schools in Chile’s voucher program. Responding to their findings and asking challenging questions will be Education Week journalist Sarah Sparks.

I hope you can join us for this fascinating discussion, and lunch, at noon on January 28th. Click here to register. The sooner we can stop “Waiting for Superman,” the better.

Remarkable Interest in School Choice in Colorado?

In Douglas County, CO, a jurisdiction with 240,000 residents south of Denver, there is strong public interest in the possible implementation of a sweeping school choice program.  Here’s a blurb from the Denver Post:

Douglas County School District officials say an unexpected level of interest in a retreat exploring school choice today and Saturday is forcing them to add an overflow room and a video feed to allow the public to watch the discussion. The school board is investigating a voucher program that would allow students to use public money to help with tuition at approved religious schools and other private ones. The two-day retreat will discuss the findings of a school-choice task force that has been mulling several issues, including vouchers.

…The board will officially discuss the school-choice recommendations at a meeting Tuesday night, during which the public will be allowed to comment. No Colorado school district has a voucher program.

Here’s a link to the full proposal. I’m told that parents will have a voucher for about $4,500 per child that can be used to finance tuition at any qualifying school. This is more than enough money to cover costs at most non-government schools, and the population is sufficiently large to make this program a dramatic test case.

Keep your fingers crossed that Douglas County officials resist special-interest groups that are seeking to thwart this reform. The teacher unions have been vicious in their efforts to stop this kind of development. If Douglas County succeeds in putting kids first, this could break the logjam and lead to better education policy across the nation.

‘Chicken Smackers with Biscuit or School Choice’

My inbox this morning contained the following Google News Alert for “school choice” from the Evansville Courier & Press:

School menu
Evansville Courier & Press
The middle school menu is chicken smackers with biscuit or school choice, peas, mashed potatoes with gravy and pineapple. Monday’s elementary and K-8 school
See all stories on this topic »

My colleagues and I have been asking for school choice for some time — folks have even made movies about it — so it’s nice to finally see it on the menu. [Just for middle school, though; I really think it should run the gamut.]

In case the Courier Press decides to tweak that menu after the fact (you know, seasonal ingredients and all), here is a screen cap.