Thursday, March 02, 2006

School Choice

Thanks to everyone who commented on my compelling interest question a few weeks back. Glad to see that we were able to get some discussion going. Also I am glad to see that most people seem to believe that the government has some interest in funding the education of the next generation. My concern with a completely private education system is that parents of school-aged children typically would struggle to fund their children’s education, which could result in a generation of people who lack the skills to make a meaningful contribution to society – especially in a rapidly globalizing world in which low skilled laborers in the U.S. must compete with people in third world countries that are just joining the world economy. Ultimately threat of increased competition at the lower end of the skills spectrum should focus public attention on the great importance of improving education so that the U.S. can continue to maintain a competitive edge.

With that in mind, I was happy to read this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, which describes the state of education in Minneapolis, one of the leaders in adopting school choice. Apparently low income and minority parents are pulling their children out of the public schools and sending them either to suburban public school districts or to charter schools in the city. I particularly liked this paragraph containing quotes from a community leader:
Black leaders like Louis King have had enough. He has a message for the school board: "You'll have to make big changes to get us back." He says the district needs a board that views families as customers and understands that competition has unalterably changed the rules of the game. "I'm a strong believer in public education," says Mr. King. "But this district's leaders have to make big changes or go out of business. If they don't, we'll see them in a museum, like the dinosaurs."
School choice has been a reality in Minneapolis for over fifteen years, but is not even offered to the majority of parents and students in this country. We need to increase the pressure to allow more educational options in this country or we will not be prepared for the emerging threat of globalization.

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