Thursday, June 22, 2006

Pro Choice Democrats -- on Education

Clint Bolick writes that Democrats are increasingly supporting school choice measures. Both tactical and philosophical considerations have helped to move some Democrats in that direction:

Still, school choice has experienced unprecedented legislative success over the past two years for a few underlying reasons. First and foremost, the school choice movement is acting smarter. Instead of taking the unions and their massive resources head-on, advocates are adopting toe-hold strategies, pursuing small programs addressing specific problems that are difficult for politicians to oppose. The strategy makes sense from a moral perspective, for it focuses assistance on the neediest schoolchildren....

For Democrats who truly believe in social justice, that presents a terrible dilemma: Either forcing children to remain in schools where they have little prospect for a bright future, or enlisting private schools in a rescue mission. Democrats are increasingly unwilling to forsake the neediest children.

For more, see here.


Blogger John H said...

One of the biggest problems I have with the teacher unions here (and elsewhere) is their intractibility when it comes to charter school, along with the obstacles they attempt to place in the way of new charter schools.

I say this married to a public school teacher and having sent all three of my kids to public schools.

I do not believe that vouchers are the answer - the amount of money that any voucher could be worth would barely touch the tuition at good private schools around here - because they drain resources away from the schools and the vast majority of the students who would not be able to receive vouchers.

Charter schools on the other hand, are compelled to take in the children of failing schools, and are given a great deal of leeway (imo they should be given much more leeway) as to how to educate their students.

If Nashville would loosen up and begin to allow charter schools to proliferate, I believe we would see a revolution in how education is defined and perceived. Give non-traditional education types the chance to shift the paradigm, set their own rules and let them detox the kids away from test-score addiction.

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Chickenman said...

The problem with vouchers is not the money. Nashville spends over $9,000 on each student. That would go really far at a private school. The real problem is volume. How many people do you think would keep their kids in public school if they could just as easily put them in a private setting? For the sake of argument, say 1 in 4 would pull out. That's roughly 17,500 kids trying to get into private schools. Are there that many open slots in private schools? Of course not. The private schools couldn't handle it. To weed out the applicants, the privates schools would more than likely (1) raise tuitions and (2) turn down a lot of kids, presumably keeping the best and brightest. That would further distill the public schools into failing, juvenile halls. The only acceptable solution is a gradual introduction of competition...i.e. Charter Schools.

The MNEA doesn't like that because competition creates discrimination. Not the discrimination that looks at race, but the kind that looks at performance. Right now, there is no measuring stick to tell if one school is better than another other than gut feelings. With accurate measurement of performance, it is much more difficult to protect poorly performing employees. Either way, anyone that is even a casual observer would have to admit that the Teachers Union doesn't care a single bit about the children. They just want to take care of their own. Removing competition and hiding performance is the best way for that to happen.

8:59 AM  
Blogger MCO said...

The points both of you make regarding the limitations of voucher options have some validity, and clearly not all students who applied would be able to get in (though in places that have tried both vouchers and charter schools, the number of applicants has been surprisingly small). However, I would offer that the introduction of vouchers might incentivize non-profit groups, including churches, to begin private schools for the purpose of providing education to underprivileged children.

That sadly is not the goal of most private schools, including church based ones, in Nashville, but it has been done in other places, and local churches and groups that spend zillions of dollars around the world need to be challenged to meet the needs of inner city children in their own backyards.

10:13 AM  

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