Topic: Education and Child Policy

Bill vs. Reality

Fresh off his failure to defeat political reality with his Strong American Schools—which tried to push education high on the list of presidential election concerns—as well as disappointment with his small-schools efforts, Bill Gates is trying a new fix for American education: national standards.

How much money does this man have to lose before he gives up on the socialist, monopoly system we’ve got now and starts pushing truly game-changing reforms like school choice?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against Gates trying to formulate standards and tests and convince schools to use them. I don’t distrust Gates because he’s too influential, for instance, nor do I have any problem with national standards as long as parents are free to choose schools, and schools are free to adopt, oh, let’s call them Standards Vista. I just think Gates is delusional if he thinks the inevitably politicized, special-interest-dominated public schooling system that he’s never been able to change before is going to suddenly rush to adopt really challenging standards and tests.

As I’ve repeated until I’m blue in the face (or numb in my typing fingers) really high standards and rigorous tests will never be adopted and maintained by most public school systems because they would be hard to reach and, hence, a big pain for the people with all the power: teachers, administrators and politicians. Why challenge yourself when you can get the money for free?

So let’s get first things first, Mr. Gates: Get education money to parents, and autonomy to schools, so we can have real choice and competition. Then I’ll gladly cheer on Microsoft as it battles Apple, the Educational Testing Service, Billy Mays, or anyone else who wants a piece of the suddenly competitive, innovative, and dynamic national-standards action.

Change We Need, Except When, Umm, the Unions Don’t Like It!

Kudos to Clarence Page for hitting President-elect Barack Obama on school choice.

Obama’s daughters are currently enrolled in a private school. The Obamas are likely to send them to one of the more expensive and exclusive private schools in DC. But Obama opposes private school choice programs that would allow parents with smaller incomes and less power to find good schools for their own children.

Page asks Obama, “what about the kids left behind in failing schools?”

Unfortunately, Obama has followed the lead of most other black politicians and decided that the poor black (not to mention white, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) kids left behind can wait for another 5, 10, or 15-year plan to improve the public schools.

It’s a sad political fact that black leaders are as strongly opposed to school choice as black parents are strongly supportive of it.

A 2001 study from the Joint Center Political and Economic Studies found 70 percent of black elected officials oppose vouchers while “in the black population, there was what can accurately be described as overwhelming support for vouchers (approximately 70 percent) in the three youngest age cohorts” under age 51. Support for vouchers in the inner-city can hit 77 percent according to research conducted by Terry Moe.

There is a massive and problematic disconnect on education policy between the average black voter on one side and the Democratic Party and black leaders on the other. It’s nice to see a liberal pundit point this out.

Cato Today

Op-Ed: “The Voters’ Message to Republicans,” by Michael D. Tanner on Cato.org

Given a choice between two “big-government parties,” voters will choose the Democrats every time.

Video: Daniel J. Ikenson discusses an auto industry bailout on CNN

Where is it written in scripture and in stone that we need to have a big three?…If one of them goes down, the industry will be doing much better.

Article: “Worse Than Bush?,” by Ted Galen Carpenter in National Interest Online

Although it is hard to imagine, Obama’s foreign policy could prove even worse than that of the Bush administration.

Article: “Save Parents the Lecture,” by Neal McCluskey in Educationnews.org

Are there things that parents could do to improve education? Sure, but they don’t need… Barack Obama lecturing them on getting involved in their kids’ learning. What they need is real power over their kids’ education. What they need is school choice—but that’s something for which Obama refuses to use his bully pulpit.

Podcast: “The New Face of the GOP,” featuring Michael D. Tanner

Marshall Fritz Passes

Marshall Fritz, founder of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, passed away last week. Marshall was a principled, honorable man, and one of the clearest voices for the view that the state should play no role in the education of children. He advocated parental responsibility and private philanthropy as the only proper means of ensuring universal access to education. While Marshall and I disagreed on some issues, he was always the model of civility and empathy. He strove to lead a good and charitable life, and he succeeded. Rest in peace, Marshall.

Isn’t It Nice: Obama Can Choose!

Speaking of school choice, here’s the Washington Post’s Jay Mathews on President-elect Obama’s upcoming school selection.

Read it and then let me know: Could Mathews be any less critical? Jay regularly dodges any meaningful discussion of private-school choice reforms like vouchers while railing about such peripheral tweaks as increasing Advanced Placement offerings. Apparently, school-choice reforms don’t even rate when the incoming President—a choice opponent—is about to choose a school for his kids. Jay just happily discusses Mr. Obama’s impending decision with the friendly warmth of a helpful new neighbor, for all intents and purposes dodging not just the political implications of the President-elect choosing a private school for his own kids, but the exceptionalism that seems to be heading his way within the public-schooling system.

“One educational gem happens to be the closest public school to their new home,” Jay writes, after noting without a hint of reservation that the Obamas will probably choose the private Georgetown Day School. “Strong John Thomson Elementary School is at 1200 L St. NW, three-fifths of a mile from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”

There are a few minor problems, though, with getting into Thomson, problems that would be deal-killers for normal DC citizens. One is that “the White House is actually in the attendance area of the Francis-Stevens Educational Center.” President-elect Obama wouldn’t want to send his kids there, though, because “that is a recently merged school with a new principal.”

Another problem is that Strong John Thomson is, according to Mathews, “close to capacity.” But no worries. The principal “said she would have room after the holidays for a fifth-grader and a second-grader transferring from the Midwest.”

When the time finally comes for Mr. Obama to select a school for his kids, would it be too much to ask that the education columnist in the Washington Post not dodge the actual political implications of the decision? I know these kinds of decisions are too personal to listen to ”kibitzing from outsiders,” but I’d sure hate for people to perceive some kind of a media bias.

The Public-School-Choice Horror!

Here are a couple of articles discussing first the hope, then the disappointment, of charter schools and other public-school choice.

The problem especially with charters is that they dangle the hope of real change and competition in front of desperate parents but are all too often at the near complete mercy of their public-schooling masters. It’s why public-school choice alone simply will not transform American education from our current moribund, socialist monopoly into a thriving free system. Just because he lets you live doesn’t mean Col. Kurtz will set you free.