It’s a disappointing development given what we know about children’s relative resistance to the coronavirus, its worst fallout, and “growing evidence” of the efficacy of wearing masks. It’s enough to make one pine for reform.
@JUJU_AnR tweeted the idea for teachers to “charge $250 a week to home school ten kids.” Some responses could be summarized as “disregard for poor kids” because “most people can’t afford that.” That’s where school choice comes in, a system to which magnet schools here bear some resemblance.
Some cater to students with a nose for construction, while others specialize in the arts. There’s one communications school just down the road from here, with another with an engineering focus a few miles in the other direction.
There are yet others that concentrate on law and agriculture, just to name a few.
The problem is that students are largely restricted to the magnets within their respective independent school districts (ISD).
When an Amazon is dropping a fulfillment center in northeast Bexar County, or a Toyota decides to build Tacomas and Tundras on the far south side, they’re picking the area as a whole. We should run our education system similarly.
On first glance, replacing area ISDs with a single education “zone” may look more like centralization, the opposite of effective reform. However, including within that framework a couple of crucial changes would prove otherwise.
One of those is that all schools in this “zone” would be completely autonomous and privately-owned.
Just like any other going-concern, schools need the ultimate incentive to offer the best product at the lowest price, and that’s the threat of going out of business if it fails.
The great teachers we have should be free to try new, innovative methods, and they should be able to move to schools owned by people who ‘get’ their particular vision. Just as importantly, they should be able to open up a school of their own if they can’t find that match.
This freedom would additionally attract newcomers who previously may have been put off by bureaucratic or regulatory limitations.
The main, if not only function this “zone” would serve would be finances, which is where a couple other changes come in. The first is ditching property taxes.
It’s already a specious proposition that someone could lose their lawfully-owned home due to failure to pay this tax, but it also introduces inefficiencies into the housing/rental market, and is a disincentive to productive economic behavior.
Funding should derive rather, from the least destructive form of taxation; that on consumption.
Children’s legal guardians would take it from there with perhaps the most important change: proportionate allotments for each child to use on the school that best suits them, with zero strings attached.
If we extrapolate out @JUJU_AnR’s figure, we come to $10,000 per student per school year. Since it’s roughly in line with reality, we’ll stick with that. Tuitions of various schools however, wouldn’t necessarily be as rigid. Prices don’t sit still, and that’s a good thing.
Price is one of the most efficient, valuable disseminators of information. When a good or service succeeds in pleasing customers, demand for it increases. No surprise there, but it gets better. The provider then must make a decision.
It could raise prices, thereby putting a more representative value on the service. That in turn would attract competitors offering either a lower price, more for the same price, or perhaps some combination of the two. Or, the original provider could open up another branch.
The ensuing competition would put a lid on prices, and floor under quality.
No doubt there are some who would raise a stink about parents possibly pocketing the difference between their respective allotment, and a lower tuition they might pay. Maybe they would parlay it into a college fund. Who knows?
The alternative however, where the government pays the schools directly, would produce something resembling our current health care system, and its subsequent third-party-payer-induced inflation.
We’ll take that tradeoff. Parents’ ability to keep the change is a small price compared to what we all pay now.
Life is tough enough for children when their families live paycheck-to-paycheck, one parent is absent, bullies run rampant, etc. They shouldn’t be relegated to underperforming schools as well. Nor should they have to move across town, or exploit residence loopholes, to change schools.
It’s difficult to take seriously the compassion opponents purport to have “for the children” when they get hung up on the decisions made, or not made, by (other) parents. Are they insufficiently qualified to make these decisions for their own kids? Do elitists simply enjoy holding “(they) can’t afford” it over their heads?
Moreover, their intellect comes into question when claiming that the use of such public allotments for religious schools is tantamount to the government making a “law respecting an establishment of religion.” Always unclear is which religion it is: Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, etc.
The Los Angeles Teacher’s Union recently provided the starkest example yet of how little those in power actually care about “the children.” More than any other reform, school choice could put that power where it would do the most good.
Co-written with Dr. John Merrifield, professor emeritus at UT-San Antonio, president of the Institute for Objective Policy Assessment, and author most recently of "School System Reform: How and Why is a Price-less Tale," and also "A Fiscal Cliff: New Perspectives on the U.S. Federal Debt Crisis," "School Choices: True and False" and "The School Choice Wars."