My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Readers of this blog won’t be surprised by the thoughts. Here’s a bit:
Also, kids are individuals. They are not cattle. They learn at different speeds, with different methods, and with different styles. It is unrealistic to expect any single school to cater to the individual needs of students. Our kids are better served if we encourage the development of an educational heterogeny and trust parents to choose the best option for their children. All that understood, first, we must implement universal school choice with equal funding for each child irrespective of the school they attend. In Wisconsin’s current School Choice programs, taxpayers get a bargain because they provide much less money for a kid who attends a choice school than if the kid attends a government school. We must equalize funding to equalize choice. The current rate in Wisconsin is $16,017 per child. The full funding should follow the child.
Next, we should implement rigorous, focused, testing of core subjects for all schools that receive funding. The taxpayers are paying for a quality education and deserve to know that their money is being well spent. The key, however, is that the testing must only test true core subjects and not impose any other strictures on the schools. If 70% of the children are proficient in reading, writing, math, and civics, then that is more than twice as good as the current government schools are delivering. We should use the power of the purse to demand very high standards in a very limited number of key subjects.
Once the funding and testing infrastructure is in place, Wisconsin should privatize all K-12 government schools. All of them. We should get government out of the business of delivering education.
When I have suggested privatization in the past, people tend to have one of two sincere reservations. Some folks worry about for-profit schools. We have been culturalized to think that profit is incongruous with education. It is not. Capitalism and the profit motive have improved the lives of more people than any other system in the history of humankind. They have lifted people out of poverty and cured diseases. Education is not immune from its benefits. From a taxpayer perspective, if a school can deliver 96% reading proficiency and make a profit, we should be delighted.