Posts tagged with: school choice

customer-satisfactionThe United States spends a lot of money each year on public schooling. As a percentage of GDP, government expenditures on public education (five percent) exceed the amount we spend on defense (four percent) or welfare (two percent). But how do we know if we are getting our “money’s worth” on public school?

Too often, the primary criterion of effectiveness is standardized testing. A school is rated almost exclusively on on how well its students perform on standard testing (usually limited to reading and math) as compared to other students in the same city, district, or state. When the issue of school choice comes up, critics assume that this standard is the only one that matters.

If an experiment in school choice doesn’t show improvement on test scores, it’s often considered empirical proof choice doesn’t work. Yet as economist Tyler Cowen says,

“Our problem [with education] today is not to enforce conformity; it is rather that we are threatened with an excess of conformity. Our problem is to foster diversity.” –Milton Friedman, Capitalism & Freedom

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._SchoolThe education reform movement has set forth a range of strategies to combat the leviathan of public education. Yet more often than not, those solutions are couched only with boilerplate about the glories of markets and competition.

There is plenty of truth behind such rhetoric, but as Greg Forster outlines in an extensive series of articles at EdChoice, a revival in education policy and educational institutions is going to require much more than free-market talking points and surface-level solutions.

“It’s not that the things we’re saying are wrong,” he writes. “We just aren’t getting to the heart of the matter because we are not challenging our nation to re-ask itself the big questions about education: What is the purpose of education? Who has final responsibility for it and why?”

Indeed, while our aversion to technocratic solutions has prodded us to focus on things like improving accountability, expanding competition, and removing barriers to information, many of the subsequent reforms have fallen prey to the same technocratic temptations. As Forster reminds us, in education, “technocracy fails more importantly because it is based on a wrong understanding of what education is for.” (more…)

Kentucky-trade-schoolFueled by a mix of misguided cultural pressures and misaligned government incentives, college tuition has been rising for decades, outpacing general inflation by a wide margin. Yet despite the underlying problems, our politicians seem increasingly inclined to cement the status quo.

Whether it be increased subsidies for student loans or promises of “free college” for all, such solutions simply double down on our failed cookie-cutter approach to education and vocation, narrowing rather than expanding the range of opportunities and possibilities.

Fortunately, despite such an inept response from the top-down, schools at the local and state levels are beginning to respond on their own. In Kentucky, for example, PBS highlights innovative efforts to rethink the meaning of “career-ready” education and retool the state’s incentives and accountability structures accordingly.

While “college-” and “career- readiness” have become buzz words that are assumed to be all but equal, Kentucky has awoken to the reality that they ought not be so lumped together so hastily. Alas, we have tended to amplify college not only to the detriment of career, but to college itself. (more…)

pope-francis-childPope Francis’s recently released apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia has received considerable attention because of the issue of divorce and communion. But the 60,000+ word document has much more to say about family life than the dissolution of marriage. For example, it provides some compelling reasons for all Christians (not just Catholics) to support school choice.

The term “school choice” refers to programs that give parents the power and opportunity to choose the schools their children attend, whether public, private, parochial, or homeschool. While there are numerous passages relevant to school choice in Amoris Laetitia, here are four essential quotes:

It’s nice when we can take a contentious issue and get right to the heart of it in a few steps. Thanks to The Daily Signal for these graphics on school choice.

school choice 1 (more…)

Taxpayer subsidized textbooks tend to tilt left, often aggressively so. Mary Grabar notes that this is especially obvious with composition textbooks:

Freshman composition class at many colleges is propaganda time, with textbooks conferring early sainthood on President Obama and lavishing attention on writers of the far left—Howard Zinn, Christopher Hedges, Peter Singer and Barbara Ehrenreich, for instance–but rarely on moderates, let alone anyone right of center. Democrats do very well in these books, but Abraham Lincoln–when included–is generally the most recent Republican featured.

Four years ago in Texas, a conservative-leaning state board of education made a push for more balance in high school history textbooks, and at one point it looked as if they had scored a decisive victory. Unfortunately, pinning down a left-leaning education establishment and getting it to implement an even-handed history curriculum is like nailing Jello to a wall. You can drive the nail through the Jello and into the wall, but the minute you step away, the Jello slides away.

This is what happened in Texas. The state board issued its mandates. A news headline declared, “Texas Kicks Out Liberal Bias From Textbooks.” Four years later, the left-leaning bias remains largely intact.

There’s a lesson here. The left marched through the institutions of the West over the past three generations, transforming them from inside. Restoring sanity and balance to our educational institutions will require a similar approach.

That being said, there is policy work to be done. (more…)

schoolchoicesignWhy do liberal and conservative evangelicals tend to disagree so often about economic issues? This is the third in a series of posts that addresses that question by examining 12 principles that generally drive the thinking of conservative evangelicals when it comes to economics. The first in the series can be found here. Part 2 can be found hereA PDF/text version of the entire series can be found here.

7. The best way to compensate for structural injustice is to increase order and individual freedom.

As it relates to economics, structural injustice could be defined as occurring when outside forces unjustly limit some person’s opportunities to enact their morally legitimate plans. Almost all evangelicals – whether liberal or conservative — agree that structural injustices still exist and that they must be opposed. Where we disagree is about what forms of structural injustice are most pervasive in 2014 and how they should be corrected.

We tend to think of structural injustices as macro-level phenomena (such as racism) that affect the actions, practices, beliefs, and laws of a large region (such as the Jim Crow laws that that codified racial segregation and discrimination). That has historically been the case in America. But today, structural injustices are usually created on the micro-level and affect a smaller area. Take, for example, the issue of poverty. In 2014, the two factors that are most likely to create structural boundaries that keep a child in poverty are their parents and their local community.