I would just like to start by thanking those who have come back over the weeks to read what I have written on my blog. This past week the blog hit the 1,000 view mark! It is super exciting, and again I thank you.
Last week I discussed how the private sector functions more efficiently than the public sector. In the private sector it is “put up or shut up.” If you can’t compete then you’re out of business. In the public sector you just ask the government for more money or to subsidize you, and there is no threat of going out of business. I closed by saying how that sounds like education in our country, and I’ll show you why.
Did you ever go to preschool? I did, as have many others. One of the things that the federal government wants to push is universal preschool. While campaigning in 2008 then-Senator Obama said that, “we need to enroll more children, and we need to start at an even earlier age.” Here in America we call universal preschool “Head Start,” but does it really give students a head start? According to a study by the Department of Health and Human Services, not really. They found that any advantage that students gained from Head Start was essentially gone by first-grade. In fact, “Head Start has little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of its participants.”
With a price tag of $8 billion per year, I think we are safe to say that the only “head start” we have received is a head start into more debt. So if children aren’t receiving any real benefit from the Head Start program, why is it still around? Big government bureaucracy. Unfortunately the big government bureaucracy is also wasting money past preschool.
Take a look at the first chart above. The cost of an education (per pupil, k-12) that the federal government spends has increased nearly 350% since 1970; yet the test scores are only slightly up in math and reading, but down in science! The second chart below shows how graduation rates in the United States have remained basically flat despite a very steady rise in spending. Spending more and more money is not the solution. Getting big government bureaucracies out of education is.
Here is what should be done:
Give principals and superintendents the ability to fire teachers and other administrators that aren’t up to par. In a private sector job, if you aren’t performing to expectations then you can be fired, so then why not in schools? Teachers unions have made it so that tenure exists in public education, which makes teachers nearly immune from being fired. And when they are able to fire a teacher, there are seemingly endless rules and regulations for the principal or superintendent to follow.
Allow voucher systems. A school voucher system allows for parents to apply the money that would have been spent on educating their child in a public school, to a private or charter school. These schools often perform very well, if not better, than public schools. One example comes from Oakland, CA where a man named Ben Chavis ran a charter school that had higher test scores despite less spending from the government.
Scrap current teacher-salary matrices. Pay teachers based on merit and performance, not by how long they have been working. Very few things will motivate employees to improve performance better than a hit in salary. Sounds harsh, and free-market opponents hate it, but how committed are we to bettering education?
Operating the US education system in a less big government sort of way would greatly improve the quality of the education that children receive. If education bureaucrats really are trying to help the children, then they must put their political agendas aside and actually bring about some real changes. Spending more money obviously hasn’t worked, so it’s time to try something new.
Thanks for reading!