School Choice And Education Reform: It’s Personal

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Like health care, education affects everyone. Like the new Obamacare, education sets central recommendations, controls choices and creates a bureaucracy.

The government way is one-size fits all.

The problem is that just as every patient is different, so is every student. Patients and students need MORE choices not less.

In education, teachers unions and state and federal bureaucrats have powerful incentives to keep things the same.

Unfortunately, same harms the powerless–our future generation.

Education reform is an easy issue to get worked up over and then do nothing. There are multiple reasons for this:

1. Education reform can take a long time — by the time motivated parents take on a certain issue, it is likely their children won’t benefit and once the child is done with school, the parents are simply relieved.

2. Parents have kids in the system — Yell at he warden, beat up the prison guard, and see how comfortable your stay at the clink is. Parents worry about their children being at the mercy of angry educators. They have good reason to be concerned. Teacher retaliation is not theoretical. It’s happened.

3. All ed reform seems to be trimming around the edges and not overhauling central issues.

4. Teachers unions actively fight against any meaningful change. Kids are caught in the middle.

The solution to this problem is to create more flexibility. One proposal in Texas is to have the education dollars follow the child.

I like this solution. Here’s why:

1. Education is still industrial-revolution ready, but less useful for the technological age. Money could be shifted to education focused on modern economic needs.

2. Children are diverse and learn differently. I have an Asperger’s/Autism student, a GT student and a kid who I’m still trying to pin down. The education system is perfectly suited to the middle of the bell curve. What about all the kids who are outside the middle? What about the kid who needs far more structure verses the kid who is so self-motivated he or she could be a college grad by age 17?

3. It’s market-based. Success breeds success. Money will go towards the best solutions.

I wonder why teachers unions are so insecure about their ability to keep and serve students? Why don’t they believe they’d be as competitive as private schools if they’re loosed from all their educational shackles?

Bad teachers would likely have a tougher time. Isn’t that a desirable outcome? Don’t we WANT good and great teachers? Don’t we want to eliminate the bad eggs?

My uncle who has been a Superintendent of Schools in Michigan and has been a part of nearly every ed reform change over the years says that people just want to talk about it but not really effect real change.

That’s probably true. It is patently unfair, though, that wealthy folks (like the Obamas) can put their kids in private schools that succeed while forcing the poor people to stay in failing schools. It is patently unfair that tax paying parents get no benefits while home schooling their own children.

People vote with their feet while resources are being thrown down the gluttonous public maw of educational failure.

It is time to become more innovative, not less, with education.

Working with National School Choice Week has been eye-opening. There is much work to do.

Choice is the answer.

More at SchoolChoice.org and PutKidsFirst.com