This was a question posed to me by @JAMSRIDE on twitter recently. This was a good example of a popular misconception propagated by Big Government Pro Union Progressive Democrats in their talking points. The Democratic lie is that they are helping the poor but in reality they are most responsible for the continuing decay of the Public Education System. I must devote some space to this subject. The lack of competition is the reason public schools are so expensive and also bad. That is why we need alternatives like vouchers and charter schools. See the articles below for yourself. The government Monopoly of Public Schools is the source of the problem and this must be corrected.
Given these results, all Americans must ask themselves what it is that the public education system lacks. One popular answer from the left has been that our schools are chronically under-funded, but is this true? In the last 50 years, we have tripled federal spending per student, adjusting for inflation. Since the 1970s, education spending has increased by 138 percent, adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, national test scores have remained stagnant since the 1970s, with graduation rates remaining at around 73 percent. Even worse, some of the best-funded school districts have some of the worst results: In the District of Columbia, where I live, only 49 percent of students graduate from high school in the public system. Yet D.C. spends roughly $24,600 per student annually — more than the average cost of private school tuition in the District.
Instead, conservatives believe that the answer lies in accountability. Merit pay and tenure reform for teachers are good places to begin. Ultimately, however, we get accountability by empowering parents to hold their children’s schools responsible. Parents know best what their child needs from educators and schools in order to succeed, because they are the ones closest to their child’s particular learning needs; anyone who has ever been in a classroom knows that each student learns differently and needs different tools to succeed.
Conservatives espouse a menu-like approach to education, envisioning a future in which students and their parents may pick and choose amongst many options. For example, we could implement public school choice, allowing children to attend public schools outside of their zip code. Or we could expand the types of public schools through charter school programs, in which certain public schools are permitted by school boards or states to operate on a different model from traditional public school, often exempt from teacher union work rules. Alternatively, we could enable students to exit failing public schools with voucher programs that apply some or all of the education dollars spent on a child to offsetting the cost of private school. Beyond these options are virtual education, home school, and more.
When a variety of options become available, many parents will choose to craft a custom-made education plan for their children. What could be more appropriate in the age of “there’s an app for that” than a customizable model for American education?
Florida offers a case study in the success of comprehensive school choice reforms. In 1999 Florida enacted a series of K-12 school reform bills, including public school choice, limited vouchers, an expanded charter school network, merit pay for teachers, virtual education (Florida currently has far and away the largest number of children enrolled in online education), and an A through F grading scale for Florida’s schools that brought transparency and informed parents about the quality of their neighborhood schools. As a result, more than ten years later, the quality of Florida’s education has skyrocketed.
The percentage of students passing the NAEP exam (the national assessment that compares students in all the states) in Florida has increased from 53 percent in 1998 to over 70 percent in the last several years. Every year, Florida uses performance on state tests, among other measures, to grade the performance of all its schools. In 1999, the first year of the reforms, there were 616 schools that received an A or B grade, and 677 that received a D or an F; the state had more failing schools than schools that were successful in educating students. In 2010, Florida had 2044 A or B schools and only 181 failing schools, a tremendous improvement that was achieved despite the fact that Florida raised its standards four times over that period of time. Over 40 percent of Florida students have taken and passed an AP exam. Additionally, Florida has also had tremendous success in closing the racial education performance gaps that have plagued American schools for decades: Black students in Florida now outperform or tie the reading average for all students in 8 other states, while Hispanic students in Florida now outperform or tie the average in 31 states.
The conservative solution, school choice, gives parents the ability to control the tax dollars that their state spends on educating their child. Empowering parents with control over their student’s education dollars introduces strong accountability to the system by giving unhappy parents the ability to take their business elsewhere, just as they would with any other service. This approach holds schools, administrators, and teachers responsible for the success of the students they are being paid to educate. School choice also enables parents of all socioeconomic backgrounds to choose from a host of options (traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, online schools, or home schools) in order to best serve the learning needs of their child, preserving upward mobility through education.
Below is some great math showing how a Conservative solution to the failed Democratic model could work.
Colbert King argues that DC should continue the opportunity scholarships private school choice program on its own dime, instead of complaining that Congress is killing it off. He starts off with a refreshing dose of realpolitik: “It should come as no surprise that Democratic congressional leaders are effectively killing the program. They, and their union allies, didn’t like it in the first place.” Too true. This is what disgusts many Americans about politics, but hey, that’s the reality.
But then he seems to descend into uncharacteristic naivete with this:
If the city likes vouchers so much, why shouldn’t the District bear the cost? The answer is as clear as it may be embarrassing to voucher proponents: D.C. lawmakers don’t want to ask their constituents to shoulder the program’s expense.That is NOT the answer. DC lawmakers are familiar with DC’s budget. DC’s FY 2009 budget, as I show in this Excel spreadsheet file, allocated $28,170 per pupil for k-12 schooling. And the average voucher amount is not $7,500, as King claims. That’s the maximum. The average is $6,620 – one quarter of what the district is spending on k-12 schooling. So operating the voucher program entirely out of the District of Columbia’s own budget would not cost a dime. And if expanded, it would save DC tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars.
So DC lawmakers are most certainly NOT afraid of asking constituents to pay for it — it would more than pay for itself. What DC lawmakers must be afraid of is that DC schools have become a massive jobs program instead of an educational program. They must fear that if the voucher program were expanded it would put many non-teaching staff out of work — including perhaps some of their own supporters.
Well how about a realpolitik solution to that problem: offer displaced workers 18 months of severance pay at something like 75% of their current salary. That would give them plenty of time to find other work, and it could be paid for from the savings of students migrating from public schools to the voucher program. This would mean that taxpayers would not see savings in the first couple of years, but after that the District would be able to offer taxpayers generous tax cuts while also offering kids significantly better learning opportunities.
Surely the details of such a deal could be hammered out by experienced politicians and negotiators. Because, really, the status quo is insane. Why keep paying $28,000 for a worse education than the voucher program is providing for $6,600? That is sheer madness.
Below is a quote from an Scot Cerullo email published on his blog http://www.thepersistentconservative.com/ and I could not say it any better.
American schools don’t teach as well as schools in other countries because they are government monopolies, and monopolies don’t have much incentive to compete. In Belgium, by contrast, the money is attached to the kids — it’s a kind of voucher system. Government funds education — at many different kinds of schools — but if a school can’t attract students, it goes out of business.
Belgian school principal Kaat Vandensavel told us she works hard to impress parents.
She told us, “If we don’t offer them what they want for their child, they won’t come to our school.” She constantly improves the teaching, saying, “You can’t afford 10 teachers out of 160 that don’t do their work, because the clients will know, and won’t come to you again.”
“That’s normal in Western Europe,” Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby told me. “If schools don’t perform well, a parent would never be trapped in that school in the same way you could be trapped in the U.S.”
Last week Florida’s Supreme Court shut down “opportunity scholarships,” Florida’s small attempt at competition. Public money can’t be spent on private schools, said the court, because the state constitution commands the funding only of “uniform . . . high-quality” schools. Government schools are neither uniform nor high-quality, and without competition, no new teaching plan or No Child Left Behind law will get the monopoly to serve its customers well.
The longer kids stay in American schools, the worse they do in international competition. They do worse than kids from poorer countries that spend much less money on education, ranking behind not only Belgium but also Poland, the Czech Republic and South Korea.
This should come as no surprise if you remember that public education in the United States is a government monopoly. Don’t like your public school? Tough. The school is terrible? Tough. Your taxes fund that school regardless of whether it’s good or bad. That’s why government monopolies routinely fail their customers. Union-dominated monopolies are even worse.