November 18, 2005

Empowering Our Children to Live the American Dream Demands School Choice

The comments section in Andrew's posting entitled Cranstonís and Rhode Islandís Need for a Sensible School Choice Program is alive with a debate about two issues: Should children from Providence - where public schools are mediocre - have the right to attend better schools in Cranston and what effect does this have on education funding flows.

Let me get at the underlying issue that makes it necessary to have this debate in the first place: Just like it was ill-conceived government actions that made health insurance belong to companies instead of individual citizens, the entire school choice and related money issues only are a problem because of further unproductive government actions.

Here are two previous postings related to this issue:

Parents or Government/Unions: Who Should Control Our Children's Educational Decisions?

Milton Friedman on School Choice

There is a lot at stake here for our country and for our children's ability to realize the American Dream. The problem is best stated in this excerpt from the 1983 study entitled "A Nation at Risk:"

For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents.

Here is another quote from the report:

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.

That is a damning indictment of the status quo and those who support it.

Also in that second posting is this quote from Milton Friedman:

"A Nation at Risk" stimulated much soul-searching and a whole series of major attempts to reform the government educational system. These reforms, however extensive or bold, have, it is widely agreed, had negligible effect on the quality of the public school system. Though spending per pupil has more than doubled since 1970 after allowing for inflation, students continue to rank low in international comparisons; dropout rates are high; scores on SATs and the like have fallen and remain flat. Simple literacy, let alone functional literacy, in the United States is almost surely lower at the beginning of the 21st century than it was a century earlier. And all this is despite a major increase in real spending per student since "A Nation at Risk" was published.

And who do you think defends ever increasing spending with no connection to outcomes? The teachers' unions, who resist any and all reform including school choice. For an indictment of the teachers' unions and the status quo at a local, state and national level, I would refer you to the numerous postings at the bottom of this posting.

Public education in this country will only improve when we recognize that teacher's unions are a fundamental part of the problem with today's educational system.

School choice - where parents, not the government, control educational decisions for their children - is the only reform that has the potential to make American public education great again.