Tag: school choice

Michelle Rhee Endorses Private School Choice…Sort of

Former DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee declares in a new op-ed that she endorses private school choice for low-income families, but adds: “I’m not for school choice for its own sake. I am for choice because it can, directly and indirectly, provide better opportunities for low-income children—not simply more opportunities.”

I’m not sure I understand her. Is Rhee saying that given two alternatives: one in which parents have many different educational choices and one in which they don’t, she inherently prefers the option that gives parents no choice if test scores are not impacted either way? Why not prefer choice for its own sake, as well as for its academic benefits?

Rhee then goes on to say that private schools receiving government funding should be under government oversight, and be required to do such things as administer standardized tests in order to ensure “accountability.” But isn’t this precisely the sort of “accountability” to which state-run schools are already subjected in minute detail, and which has coincided with stagnation or decline in academic achievement for two generations (depending on the subject) and a catastrophic productivity collapse? It’s worth noting that it is the freest, least regulated, most market-like education systems that consistently produce the most effective, efficient schools.

It’s a short op-ed, providing little room for Rhee to explain how she came to hold the particular policy views she espouses regarding private school choice. It will be interesting to learn more.

Indiana Voucher Law a Defeat for Educational Freedom

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed an expansive new voucher law today. It’s a disaster for educational freedom. Read the full explanation here.

The voucher program has been widely praised as a momentous victory for school choice and Gov. Mitch Daniels on the brink of his long-awaited presidential campaign announcement. In reality, the voucher program is a tactical victory for highly constrained choice won at the price of a broad strategic defeat for educational freedom. This program will greatly expand state regulation of and authority over participating private schools.

In our efforts to expand educational choice across the country, we can’t lose sight of what makes that choice valuable: educational freedom and the diversity of choices it allows to develop. School choice is meaningless if all the choices are the same.

Just a teaser … ever heard of Chief Seattle? Private schools in Indiana will know him well if they take a voucher.

Read the piece for these and other shocking details!

Nearly Half of Detroiters Illiterate. Cause Apparently a Mystery.

A study funded by 10 major foundations reported yesterday that 47 percent of Detroiters are functionally illiterate–unable to read a bus schedule, fill out a resume, or make sense of the directions on an aspirin bottle.

When I checked back in 2008, Detroit public schools were spending $13,000 / pupil, which was then above the national average.

The report notes that half of the illiterate population has either a high school diploma or a GED. That’s beside the point. Virtually the entire illiterate  population has completed elementary school, the level at which reading is theoretically taught. That’s seven years of schooling (k-6), at a cost of roughly $100,000, for… nothing.

The study mainly calls for adult education services to remediate the problem after it has occurred. Perhaps when the city’s illiteracy rate reaches 100 percent the recommendations will suggest replacing the failed k-12 monopoly with something more effective. Of course, by then who’ll be able to read them?

Will Indiana School Choice Infringe Upon Liberty?

There’s more bad news about the school choice bill awaiting Gov. Mitch Daniels’ signature in Indiana. Yesterday, Adam Schaeffer wrote about its possible negative fiscal impact if coupled with the state’s tax credit program. Perhaps just as concerning is the law’s requirement that private schools prove that they are sufficiently “American” to participate in the program. This interview with State Sen. Carlin Yoder (R), one of the bill’s sponsors, captures the sentiment behind the requirement:

Perhaps the problem here is that, in all of the education policy community’s obsession with test scores and dollars, we’ve lost sight of what school choice should ultimately be about: freedom. It should be about creating an education system that allows people to choose for themselves what values they will embrace and how they will live, not one that allows the state to dictate — either through hard compulsion or soft bribery — those things. Giving the state that power, though the state might employ it only rarely or gently, is still ultimately giving the state authority over our thoughts and expressions, and that is the basis for, potentially, a most thorough of tyrannies.

There is great irony in this aspect of Indiana’s soon-to-be law, which would curb the ability of educators to freely teach as they please, and of parents and students to freely seek out the education they want.  As Sen. Yoder says, to “make sure the students appreciate our great history in the U.S.,”  the law would curb that thing that has made it great: individual liberty.

Of course, the very understandable fear animating this is that unless taught the importance of freedom as children, adults will sacrifice liberty. But government coercion to prevent that, even if well intentioned, doesn’t appear to produce the desired results — liberty is sacrificed without even getting the hoped for ends.

According to a recent summary of research compiled by University of Arkansas professor Patrick Wolf on the transmission of “civic values” such as political tolerance, civic knowledge, and even proclivity to perform community service, private-school students come out on top. Why? Most likely because in public schooling people holding lots of different opinions on what constitutes proper “American” values are forced to pay for a single system of government schools, and hence to fight over what the system teaches. All too often the road to peace is to teach, well, nothing, or close to it, in order to anger as few people as possible. Private schools, in contrast, tend to hold set, coherent values parents agree to when choosing them, and it appears that if uncoerced, people will choose to have their children educated to be good citizens.

School choice must be about freedom — the ultimate American value — not, as Indiana is on the verge of doing, undermining liberty in the name of protecting it.

Dear Ms. Weingarten: I’ll Show You Mine if You’ll Show Me Yours

Teachers’ union president Randi Weingarten writes in the Wall Street Journal today that markets are not the answer in education. She seems to have reached this conclusion based on the testimony of a few foreign teachers’ union leaders and government officials who… run official government education monopolies.

Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to reach policy conclusions based on empirical research. So after comparing the performance of alternative school systems over the past 2,000 years, I surveyed the modern econometric literature on the subject for the Journal of School Choice. What I found is that the freest, most market-like education systems consistently outperform the sorts of state monopolies preferred by Ms. Weingarten and her fellow travelers. Appended below is the chart counting up how many studies favored education markets over state school monopolies, and vice-versa, in each of six outcome areas.

If Ms. Weingarten is aware of a similar weight of scientific evidence favoring her position, she should present it. Otherwise, why would anyone bother to heed her? More puzzling still, what was it about her alleged-dog-allegedly-bites-man op-ed that the WSJ thought worth publishing?

CEOs to Governors: Raise Production Goals and Quality Standards

A group of CEOs called on the nation’s governors this week to raise U.S. business standards. Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, the CEOs declared that state governments have been misleading consumers about the quality of the goods they’re buying. One retired Fortune-500 CEO declared that:

America’s standing as the most innovative and prosperous nation on earth depends on our ability to boost business’ productivity. As business leaders, we are pledging to stand with governors who commit to high production and product quality standards in scientific and technological fields.

Even today, most readers probably recognize the preceding paragraphs as satirical (I hope!). The idea that it would be helpful to have bureaucrats set production volume and quality standards for high-tech industries is ludicrous on its face. How tragic it is, then, that this event actually took place… with one small twist: the CEOs were calling for more central planning in science and technology education.

Having spent nearly 20 years studying the relative productivity of different types of school systems, it is hard for me to understand how such brilliant business leaders could have arrived at such a profoundly mistaken conclusion. If they care at all about the goals they have set out to achieve, they would be well advised to stop listening to those who are currently advising them, and to look at the evidence on what actually does raise educational productivity. I’ve summarized that evidence in a short piece for the Washington Post, in a journal paper reviewing the past 25 years of worldwide research, and in a book surveying 20 centuries of school systems.

Distilling the findings of that work into a single sentence: it is the freest and most market-like education systems that, throughout history, have done the best and most efficient job of serving both our individual needs and our shared ideals.

Teachers, it turns out, are people. And like other people, they respond to the freedoms and incentives of their workplaces. As a result, the same structures and conditions that optimize the operation of other industries also optimize the operation of school systems. Xerox makes good copiers and Intel makes good chips because they have competitors who will eat their lunch if they don’t; because they have the freedom to explore new and better ways of serving their customers; and because they are rewarded very handsomely for innovations that successfully serve those customers.

Want education standards to rise? Give educators those same freedoms and incentives — and stand back.

“Winning”

I have an op-ed in the Huffington Post today arguing that it’s possible to ensure universal access to education without compelling anyone to support types of instruction that violate their convictions. This eliminates the central objection that the ACLU and ADL have given for their opposition to private school choice. Indeed, if those organizations really care about freedom of conscience, they should prefer the policy solution I outline to the status quo system in which every taxpayer is compelled to support a single government organ of education. Or is there some other reason why the ACLU and ADL oppose liberating American education?

Feel free to chime-in in the comments section on Huff Po.