Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Educational Competition Now

In his column this morning, John Stossel declares that Schools Need Competition Now. Stossel points out that competition in the market place gives consumers enormous power as they "say no to one business and yes to another".

Former president of the American Federation of Teachers, the late Albert Shanker said,
It's time to admit that the public education system operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody's role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity. It's no surprise that our school system doesn't improve. It more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy.
Bottom line: monopolies rarely produce better results than competition does.

Delaware is one state that has allowed some real competition. Two of its top high schools are the Charter School of Wilmington, a math and science focused school which in past years has had three times as many applicants as seats available, and Cab Calloway School of the Arts. Additionally, Delaware seems to have a disproportionate number of private schools for its size.

Furthermore, many families in the nation have become so disenchanted with government schools that they have decided to take matters into their own hands. They have committed to educating their children themselves at home (or in co-ops, in the car, at museums, at historical sites, at get the picture). Delaware itself has quite a large homeschool community in which families support each others’ efforts to train their children to excel both educationally and morally.

Stossel himself remarked extensively about the homeschool movement:

The monopoly fails so many kids that more than a million parents now make big
sacrifices to homeschool their kids. Two percent of school-aged kids are homeschooled now. If parents weren't taxed to pay for lousy government schools,
more might teach their kids at home.

Some parents choose to homeschool for religious reasons, but homeschooling has been increasing by 10 percent a year because so many parents are just fed up with the government's schools. Homeschooled students blow past their public-school counterparts in terms of achievement.

Brian Ray, who taught in both public and private schools before becoming president of the National Home Education Research Institute, says, "In study after study, children who learn at home consistently score 15-30 percentile points above the national averages," he says. Homeschooled kids also score almost 10 percent higher than the average American high school student on the ACT.

It is indeed profound that so many parents have become so aggravated with their local schools that after paying taxes to support them, they still shell out beaucoup bucks to place their children in private schools. Others make still huger sacrifices by laying aside careers to appropriate a lifestyle of homeschooling to ensure their children's academic and moral success.

As people are already voting with their money and their time, maybe the government should take the hint. Maybe it is indeed time to allow more competition in the educational arena.


At 8/30/2006 11:55 AM, Blogger gutshot said...

Wow, yet another government institution that fails on so many levels.

It's really sad that voucher legislation hasn't passed, especially with all of the data that shows non-public education (whether private schools or home-schooling) to be far superior, and with Republicans in charge of both houses of Congress. People are big-time fed up. Referendum money gets spent within a year or two, and then they come back crawling to the people for more.

The public school system is a monstrosity. It's easy to assess as the truth...give each parent in the state $10,000 a year to spend on education, and see where they send their kids.

At 8/30/2006 4:35 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

I'm for competition, but how do you make it a reality? The plans I've seen talk about alternatives, but I don't know that we can call those "competition" in the general sense.

At 8/30/2006 4:52 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Well, in DE we have some school choice and some charter schools which are giving people options. We have a way to go still, but progress is being made. Vouchers could go a long way toward allowing people more freedom to choose, esp economically disadvantaged people who have the fewest options. Let them choose private schools if they wish. (Of course, there would have to be funds for special needs kids who might cost more to educate). Those would be some places to start.

At 9/03/2006 1:02 AM, Anonymous Dee said...

For the record, Delaware has some excellent public school systems that do not involve charter schools.

In Sussex County (lower Delaware), which many upper DE students see as "hicktown," the school districts (vast majority public) participate in a program called "Academic Challenge" where students follow a 5-year accelerated math and english curriculum, ending in UD college courses Calculus A, Calc B, Calc C, Differential Equations, Chaos, Critical Reading and Writing, Intro to Poetry, Intro to Drama, and Short Story.

These courses are open to anyone in the participating school districts who take the SAT in 7th grade (whatever the score is) and maintain GPAs of 3.0 and above. The students pay nothing, not even for books or tuition used at the UD course level. The UD courses are not taught at our local private schools, and a few of those courses are not taught at Charter School of Wilmington.

I only bring this up because Delaware was the example already. I believe if more public schools operated with this kind of program, the nation's youth would be better educated with higher self-esteem(!). After all, the Charter School of Wilmington selectively admits, with a rate of 40%. Most rates are worse, especially for actual private schools.

As an ending thought, it's easy to set up private and charter schools and allow them to selectively admit in order to educate the "elite". However, it is far more valuable, though more difficult, to educate the whole populace.

Sorry for a reply being a blog of it's own. ~_^

At 9/03/2006 7:12 AM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Some good points Dee.

A difference is that you are mentioning rural schools. I lived in a rural area for a long time and the difference was astounding between the students there and the students here. There is a certain work ethic in farming communities and an attitude of respect among the students that permeates the schools. Kids can achieve more when they are not being pulled down by a toxic culture around them.

Many parents sense that there is something wrong with the culture and education of the schools in more populated areas and therefore vote against them by choosing other ways to educate their kids.


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