Written by Andrew Coulson, Director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Californians approved Prop 30, a $6 trillion dollar tax hike intended to save public schools from “devastating” cuts. In fact, the state is already spending around $30 billion more today on public schooling than it did in the early 1970s, after controlling for both enrollment growth and inflation—and SAT scores, the only academic outcome measure going back that far, are down. Prediction: this $6 billion will have little impact on children’s education even if it does make it to the school level. Instead, it will further slow California’s economy and drive a few more businesses out of the state.
Georgia approved a new charter school authorizer, which should lead to more rapid growth of charter schools in that state. Based on recent research published by the Cato Institute, this will increase generally mediocre options within the public school sector by, in part, cannibalizing generally better options in the private sector. Georgia can avoid a net reduction in educational diversity, freedom, and quality by expanding its existing education tax credit program.
In 2009, Democrats quietly issued the death certificate for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program by slashing its budget on the way to phasing it out altogether. It is unheard of for Democrats to be so enthusiastic about cutting funding for anything other than the military, so this must have been a drastic case indeed to convince them that the program needed to go. So what was it that led to the decision to end the program? Was it because it was too expensive? Not by a long shot, and besides, when was the last time you’ve heard a Democrat argue for ending a program just because it costs too much? Was it because of underperformance? No, it actually performed quite well. If you guessed it was because Obama and the Democrats fell prostrate to their masters in the teachers unions, now you are making some progress.
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program was founded in 2004 and became wildly successful. The program provided $7500 scholarships to students so that they could attend private schools. For students of the D.C. Public School system, which is at the very top of the national list of worst-performing public schools, and in one of the most violent districts in the nation, this was a lifeline out of poverty, and a path to a brighter future. The scholarships allowed students, nearly all from low-income families, and the vast majority of them being minority children, to escape the prison system for children known as the D.C. Public Schools. The fact that minority children could take these scholarships and go to private schools was quite a bargain, considering that the public school system in D.C. was spending $18,000 per child per year, and still managing to turn out some the worst academically achieving children in the country. To give you an idea of how bad it was in the DCPSS, only 14% of 8th-graders attain proficiency at reading on their grade level.
As a candidate for school board in the Bay Area suburb of Hayward, Maribel Heredia may not seem like a figure of national importance. However, Heredia’s presence in the Hayward school board race is a demonstration of the push for change that has taken the country by storm.
A lot of people roll their eyes whenever someone makes a comment about liberal college professors indoctrinating our young people. I understand it even, because I’ve known a lot people who were liberal in college but who change their positions once they get out into the great, wide world.
Unfortunately, professors like this give a lot of ammunition to those that think American colleges seem to be dedicated to indoctrinate rather educate. From the Daily Caller:
If students want to pass John Banzhaf’s law class, they’ll have to fight for increased government regulation in the food and beverages industry.
Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University, will require his students to lobby state and local governments to ban sugary beverages, according to a press release. The release was put out by Banzhaf himself, who summarized the objective as “Undergrads Required to Lobby for Obama Policy.”
“Some 200 undergrads will be asked to contact legislators in their home cities, counties, or states asking them to adopt legislation similar to that already adopted in New York City … banning restaurants, delis, movie theaters and many other businesses from selling high-sugar drinks in cups or containers larger than 16 ounces,” said the press release.
To appease students who may not wish to advocate the specific policy in place in New York City, Banzhaf supplied a list of substitute activities, which include:
In just over a week, voters will go to the polls to decide the fate of the Charter School Amendment, which has suddenly become quite controversial. What few people realize is that Georgia had charter schools, successful charter schools, for quite a few years until the Gwinnett County school system sued to have the charter schools ruled unconstitutional. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled, in a split decision, in favor of Gwinnett, and charter schools suddenly became unconstitutional. As pointed out in a blistering dissent by Justice David Nahmias, this was accomplished by the Supreme Court making a very creative interpretation of the Georgia Constitution. Unfortunately, once that ruling was made, it became the law of the land, which is why we are at this point now. The only way to reverse the effect of the court’s ruling is to pass a constitutional amendment to get us back to where we can do what we had already been doing.
There has been an enormous misinformation campaign waged by opponents of this amendment, who see this, correctly, as a danger to the monopoly stranglehold they hold on education in Georgia; or rather, on the BILLIONS of education dollars that the public school system controls. One of the most curious attacks on this amendment is the claim, uttered with vague but ominous undertones, that the campaign in favor of the amendment is being funded with money that comes, in part, from out of state sources. In fact, I was told this week by someone opposing the amendment that this was “sin money”, and that we couldn’t trust the motives of those contributing money from out of state.
There’s a huge debate around the issue of choice in education. The conversation on school choice has a number of talking points ranging from letting public funds follow students to shutting down all public schools and completely privatizing education. And there are some who don’t fall into the “pro” column on choice at all. (I don’t understand them, but they’re out there.)
My libertarian approach to education is pretty straightforward: it’s my (and my wife’s) responsibility to see that our children are properly trained for their future, and at no point does the federal government (or the state government) have any impact whatsoever on our role as parents.
I had this conversation with then-Congressman Nathan Deal while he was on the campaign trail running to be Georgia’s next Governor. My wife and I are fortunate enough to be able to send our children to private school, and the conversation with Deal was about my taxes actually paying for my children’s education. He was making the argument that Georgia had to make sure private schools were reaching certain standards before education funds could follow students to private schools.
While I understand his concern, his stance on that issue takes parental responsibility completely out of the equation. My wife and I have chosen a specific school to help us teach our children. That school answers to us. If the product it provides is not found to be satisfactory, we will have the option of (and responsibility for) finding another school that will meet our standards.
I don’t want to be airing dirty laundry in a public forum, so I’m not going to get into much detail with the personal information on this issue, but this year my wife and I have had frustrations with the school our children attend. After considering our options, we have decided to partner with another school for their education next school year.
The public school system is a disaster. More and more money is being spent, and for what? The results just aren’t warranting the expense. However, there are alternate approaches out there. One that seems to be gaining steam more and more as the years go by is the idea of charter schools.
At Townhall.com, John Stossel who hosts the show Stossel on Fox Business writes a bit about charter schools.
I was surprised to meet kids who said they like school. What? I found school boring. How can it be that these fourth-graders tell me that they look forward to going to school and that math is “rockin’ awesome”?
Those kids attend one of those new charter schools. Charters let them escape the bureaucracy of regular schools, including, often, teachers union rules. These schools compete for kids because parents can always choose another school. That makes them better.
Not every charter school is good, but the beauty of competition is that bad ones go out of business, while good ones expand. Then good schools teach more kids. Choice and competition produce quality. Anyone surprised?
For the record, many teachers unions oppose charter schools. Because of their nature, they introduce some instability into a teacher’s life. Charter schools can be shut down easier, and charter schools are often formed in such a way to get rid of bad teachers quickly. The result? Kids who want to learn and do it better.
When you can’t defend your own ideology, characterize your opponent’s ideology as something that it isn’t, a la David Sirota:
On one side are self-interested teachers unions who supposedly oppose fundamental changes to schools, not because they care about students, but because they fear for their own job security and wages, irrespective of kids. In this mythology, they are pitted against an alliance of extraordinarily wealthy corporate elites who, unlike the allegedly greedy unions, are said to act solely out of the goodness of their hearts. We are told that this “reform” alliance of everyone from Rupert Murdoch to the Walton family to leading hedge funders spends huge amounts of money pushing for radical changes to public schools because they suddenly decided that they care about destitute children, and now want to see all kids get a great education.
Here Sirota creates a straw man by claiming that proponents of privatization of education and other like-minded reformers believe that “wealthy corporate elites…act solely out of the goodness of their hearts.” Quite contrarily, I expect private businesses, of which private schools are in specie, to provide a good service out of their own best interest. I expect them to cater to my desires out of fear for their own survival and financial well being – the profit motive. Adam Smith noted the power of this phenomenon centuries ago:
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
It is an inescapable axiom that education is a service not unlike that of any other industry. The reasons that we must treat it so differently are lost on me.