John D wrote:
No... I'm not surprised at all. I know a lot about DeVos. Something needs to change in public school. The left has no good ideas... well... really ... the only idea they have is to spend more, pay more, and grow the existing bloated bull shit. I am happy to experiment with options that will give some people a rug burn. In the short term things will get screwed up in some places, but at least something is changing.
At the very least, the poor parents who give a shit about their children's education will have some choice. The choice causes high quality parents to push their children into a better school. The parents who don't care will just take their kid to their lousy local school. This ability to choose will allow the most active and supportive parents to create a school environment that they can improve. The kids with bad parents will just end up in prison anyway... so who the fuck cares.
There should be a civic duty of society in general to provide citizens who are in poverty with at least decent education, though. Dismantling public education and not caring about children with negligent parents doesn't seem like a good idea. Also poor and non-negligent parents may really not be able to afford private education, even with vouchers. You ran the risk of creating castes of people who really cannot even have a chance to improve their socio-economic conditions.
Regardless of moral concerns (which do exist) breeding an eternal lower class of underpaid and unemployed (and likely unemployable) people isn't a good idea for any country, let alone one as rich in guns and people who use them as the US.
The US do spend a lot on public education, that's true, and results are actually lousy:
According to a 2005 report from the OECD, the United States is tied for first place with Switzerland when it comes to annual spending per student on its public schools, with each of those two countries spending more than $11,000 (in U.S. currency). Despite this high level of funding, U.S. public schools lag behind the schools of other rich countries in the areas of reading, math, and science
Switzerland, however, has better results. How does it happen?
A further analysis of developed countries shows no correlation between per student spending and student performance, suggesting that there are other factors influencing education. Top performers include Singapore, Finland and Korea, all with relatively low spending on education, while high spenders including Norway and Luxembourg have relatively low performance. One possible factor is the distribution of the funding. In the US, schools in wealthy areas tend to be over-funded while schools in poorer areas tend to be underfunded. These differences in spending between schools or districts may accentuate inequalities, if they result in the best teachers moving to teach in the most wealthy areas.
The problem might not be spending more, but allocating the spending in a more efficient way.
However there's something weird going on with spending. Apparently there's lot of mismanagement of funds:
It has been shown that some school districts do not use their funds in the most productive way. For example, according to a 2007 article in the Washington Post, the Washington, D.C. public school district spends $12,979 per student per year. This is the third highest level of funding per student out of the 100 biggest school districts in the United States. Despite this high level of funding, the school district provides outcomes that are lower than the national average. In reading and math, the district's students score the lowest among 11 major school districts—even when poor children are compared only with other poor children. 33% of poor fourth graders in the United States lack basic skills in math, but in Washington, D.C., it's 62%. According to a 2006 study by the Goldwater Institute, Arizona's public schools spend 50% more per student than Arizona's private schools. The study also says that while teachers constitute 72% of the employees at private schools, they make up less than half of the staff at public schools. According to the study, if Arizona's public schools wanted to be like private schools, they would have to hire approximately 25,000 more teachers, and eliminate 21,210 administration employees. The study also said that public school teachers are paid about 50% more than private school teachers.
In 1985 in Kansas City, Missouri, a judge ordered the school district to raise taxes and spend more money on public education. Spending was increased so much, that the school district was spending more money per student than any of the country's other 280 largest school districts. Although this very high level of spending continued for more than a decade, there was no improvement in the school district's academic performance.
It's weird that so much money is spent with lousy results. Something is wrong. Is it that incompetent teachers have perfect job security since teacher cannot be evaluated through merit pay due to union rules (which is actually a problem in, say, Italy)? Is it lack of control over local school spending? Lack of transparency? Badly-written syllabi (I evaluate syllabi for a living, believe me when I say that a badly written and programmed syllabus can really lower the quality of education)? Badly written tests, based on badly implemented standardized rules? Or a combination of the above?
I don't know. I'd love to review American public school performance and syllabi to have a better idea, since this is part of my job and if I had time I could at least point out a few things that don't work. However simply wrecking the system because it doesn't work and leaving children to for-profit private schools doesn't seem like a great solution to me.