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June 28, 2010

Stupid in America: The Need for Education Reform

“Competition works so well in our society.  Competition brought us the automobile, the personal computer, the Internet, and the cell phone (among other things).  If competition is so good, then why isn’t competition good enough for our schools?”
What if you had the ability to choose what school district in your county receives your share of property tax income?  What if you had a choice to send your children to a different school district because the school near your homes has low test scores, low graduation rates, or high crime?  What if a child embroidered in the ghetto had an opportunity to leave his/her downtrodden community and attend a reputable school before she/he becomes hopeless?  Is there anything wrong with having a choice?
If you take the time to watch today’s video documentary, teachers’ unions are strongly opposed to the presence of anything other than a public school. 
Milton Friedman proposed the idea of school vouchers to give parents a choice in what school their children attend, and therefore, what school gets their share of property tax revenue that goes to schools.  So what’s the apparent problem with this idea?
When you give the opportunity for schools to acquire children from outside their district, you reward schools with a great reputation(along with more money) and you close bad schools.  Good schools get additional income from the taxpayers to continue investing in the improvement of their school district (which is obviously working) and the bad schools lose income, lose additional opportunities and have to close.
So why are public school unions opposed to this?
As shown in this website, public school unions like to protect their membership from losing their jobs (as you can see from this section of the site, we’re talking about some pretty bad teachers). 
One example of a bad public school teacher would be:
“Winner” pulled up, drunk, to the drive-thru window of a fast-food restaurant. After ordering, he became angry that he wasn’t getting his food fast enough, so he took out a gun and started waving it at restaurant employees. After his arrest, he pled no contest to all charges and was sent to jail. His students, meanwhile, were told he was caring for an ill family member. Once he was out of jail he was reinstated for several months before the media got wind of the story.”
You can read more on school vouchers here and read a case study about the quality of education in Milwaukee during its school voucher experience. 
Many educators believe that competition is simply too stressful for the system.  Unfortunately, for them, competition is stressful and a central part of improvement in our society.  There’s something about accountability and losing your job that motivates people to keep high standards and improve.  There’s something about hard work and commitment translating into being rewarded (like a school that performs well in a school voucher system).
For those of you who believe that school districts can spend their way out of a problem, you should certainly watch John Stossel’s Stupid in America special (which is shown below).  Everyone should also know that the Kansas City School District that decided to spend its problems away have closed half of their schools since the airing of this documentary.
For me, competition in education is a solution to all of the problems that surround our education system.  They raise test schools, they reward good schools without having to get the federal government involved vis a vis increased spending, and they close bad schools (which exposes fewer children to bad educators). 
John Stossel explains his documentary here.  As a parent, would you want a choice?

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