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School Competition Rescues Kids
Townhall.com ^ | October 26, 2011 | John Stossel

Posted on 10/26/2011 4:42:23 AM PDT by Kaslin

For years, American education from kindergarten through high school has been a virtual government monopoly.

Conventional wisdom is that government must run the schools. But government monopolies don't do anything well. They fail because they have no real competition. Yet competition is what gives us better phones, movies, cars -- everything that's good.

If governments produced cars, we'd have terrible cars. Actually, governments once did produce cars. The Soviet bloc puts its best engineers to work and came up with the Yugo, the Volga and the Trabant. The Trabant was the best -- the pride of the Eastern Bloc. It was produced by actual German engineers -- known for their brilliance. Yet even the Trabant was a terrible car. Drivers had to put the oil and gas in separately and then shake the car to mix them. Trabants broke down and spewed pollution. When government runs things, consumers suffer.

Our school system is like the Trabant. Economist Milton Friedman understood this before the rest of us did. In 1955, he proposed school vouchers. His plan didn't call for separating school and state -- unfortunately -- but instead sought a second-best fix: Give a voucher to the family, and let it choose which school -- government-run or private -- their child will attend. Schools would compete for that voucher money. Today, it would be worth $13,000 per child. (That's what America spends per student today.) Competition would then improve all schools.

Friedman's idea was ignored for decades, but now there are voucher experiments in many states.

Do vouchers work? You bet they do. Just ask the low-income kids in Washington, D.C., who have participated in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The U.S. Department of Education found that the voucher kids read better than their government-school counterparts.

So what did the politicians do? Expand the program? No. Two years ago, President Obama killed it. Why?

"The president has concerns about ... talking large amounts of funding out of the system," then-press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Voucher families protested. One voucher student, Ronald Holassie, said, "President Barack Obama, you say that getting an education is a key to success, but why do you sit there and let my education and others be taken away?"

The program was reauthorized only after John Boehner became speaker of the House and insisted on it.

Holassie says the difference between a government school and his private school was dramatic.

"In the public school system when I was in there, (there were) lots of fights. There were shootings, stabbings, and it was really unsafe -- drugs."

The Opportunity Scholarship didn't offer the full $20,000 that the district squanders on its public schools. It was worth just $7,000, but that was enough to get Ronald into a Catholic school.

"I was actually challenged academically," he said. "I remember when I was in the public school system, my teacher left in the middle of the year. I remember doing crossword puzzles and stuff like that. We weren't actually learning."

He says most of his government-school teachers acted like they didn't care. His mother, who's from Trinidad, was going to send him there because the schools are better than American schools.

"She wasn't going to continue to just let this system fail me."

But he got the voucher and a good education, and now he's in college.

Despite the data showing that voucher kids are ahead in reading, the biggest teachers union, the NEA claims: "The D.C. voucher program has been a failure. It's yielded no evidence of positive impact on student achievement."

Holassie asks: "How is it a failure when the public school system is failing students? I don't understand that."

I don't understand it either. Vouchers aren't a perfect solution, but they are better that leaving every student a prisoner of a government monopoly. District government schools have only a 49 percent graduation rate. Ninety-one percent of the voucher students graduate.

Why would the union call that a failure? Because vouchers allow parents to make choices, and many parents would chose non-union, non-government-run schools. The school establishment can't abide this. Too much money and power are at stake.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: schoolchoice; vouchers

1 posted on 10/26/2011 4:42:32 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin
"In the public school system when I was in there, (there were) lots of fights. There were shootings, stabbings, and it was really unsafe -- drugs." ... "I remember when I was in the public school system, my teacher left in the middle of the year. I remember doing crossword puzzles and stuff like that. We weren't actually learning."

There you have the biggest problem with public schools: we cannot kick out problem students. At the middle school level it's flatly forbidden, and we have drug-pushing, knife-carrying little sociopaths in there doing absolutely anything they can to disrupt learning and antagonize teachers. It's fun! And there are no real consequences. Even at the high school level, administrators are reluctant to kick out dangerous kids, because it represents a loss of funding.

The best thing about charter schools, from what I have seen, is that they can simply expell kids who cause problems. That sends a message to the kids who remain, AND it removes one of the biggest drags on learning: those little internal saboteurs who make teachers and the other kids miserable. I can't tell you how many times I've had kids beg me "kick him out!!" And when I say, "They'll just send him right back," they slump in their chairs and mutter, "That's true." And we all sigh.

2 posted on 10/26/2011 5:51:19 AM PDT by A_perfect_lady (Islam is as Islam does.)
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To: A_perfect_lady

That’s really the crux of the issue. I had to deal with a few real characters in my interior design class and I foudn out later on that one of the girls had actually tried to kill her own sister when she was younger. Why these losers aren’t in Juvy is beyond me to be frank.


3 posted on 10/26/2011 5:59:59 AM PDT by Niuhuru (The Internet is the digital AIDS; adapting and successfully destroying the MSM host.)
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To: Kaslin

America is competitive, just in the wrong places. If we channeled our energy into scholastics instead of stripping, we would be right back at superpower status where we should be instead of degenerating constantly. I find it ironic that at the height of it’s Communism, the Soviets nurtured their scientists and engineers while we undermine ours.


4 posted on 10/26/2011 6:01:44 AM PDT by Niuhuru (The Internet is the digital AIDS; adapting and successfully destroying the MSM host.)
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To: Niuhuru

Yes. And this idea that public school teachers are evil but charter school teachers are wonderful is pretty amusing, as most charter school teachers I know started off as public school teachers. In fact, all the private schools I applied to when I first got my credential stipulated that they wanted someone with at least 3 years teaching experience in public schools. LOL!


5 posted on 10/26/2011 6:05:30 AM PDT by A_perfect_lady (Islam is as Islam does.)
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To: A_perfect_lady

Well, I went to a public school and I honestly cannot blame the charter schools for wanting potential candidates to really take seriously the beenfits of teaching in a charter school.


6 posted on 10/26/2011 6:18:19 AM PDT by Niuhuru (The Internet is the digital AIDS; adapting and successfully destroying the MSM host.)
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To: A_perfect_lady
In fact, all the private schools I applied to when I first got my credential stipulated that they wanted someone with at least 3 years teaching experience in public schools.

Right. This way the charter school can skim the subset of experienced teachers who are any good.

I have two proposals to improve public education:

(1) Hire retired military NCOs to teach middle school. In the military, the primary duty of NCOs is to teach. If they can teach 18 year olds map reading, vehicle maintenance, and electronics, they can teach middle school kids. And they are more likely to be able to maintain order, without which nothing gets done.

(2) Hire people with experience teaching Freshman courses in colleges who did not make tenure track to teach high school. Knowing the subject is more important than having an Ed degree. When I went to Catholic High School, our teachers had degrees in the subject matter, not in education.

7 posted on 10/26/2011 6:35:47 AM PDT by PapaBear3625 (When you've only heard lies your entire life, the truth sounds insane.)
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To: Kaslin

Despite the data showing that voucher kids are ahead in reading, the biggest teachers union, the NEA claims: “The D.C. voucher program has been a failure. It’s yielded no evidence of positive impact on student achievement.”

Herein lies the problem. Shakespeare said “first kill all the lawyers” (a good start, but I digress) in education “first kill all the unions” then you can start to fix the problem. Vouchers work.
And, a twofer, get rid of the Federal Dept of Ed. Save money and allow the states to be flexible in their approach to education. Want to fix our cities? Fix the inner city schools and the rest will follow. No one with kids will live in a city if they can avoid it, because of the schools.
The money flees to the suburbs and the city decays.


8 posted on 10/26/2011 7:05:26 AM PDT by mistfree (The Law! How Quaint.)
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To: A_perfect_lady

It’s not just loss of funding, it’s potential lawsuits which cost money. Many students who are expelled sue to be reinstated or for a financial gain. This is often a bigger drain than the funding.


9 posted on 10/26/2011 8:10:04 AM PDT by PrincessB (Drill Baby Drill.)
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