July 26 2009
School Choice Would Satisfy Hunger for Change
Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D
(This post was co-authored by Evelyn B. Stacey, Education Studies Policy Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in Sacramento, California)
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently wrote in the Washington Post about the plans for the $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" fund, saying it is "by far the largest pot of discretionary funding for K-12 education reform in the history of the United States." Yet, even in the midst of an unprecedented recession, adding more money is not the only answer. Since 2000 education funding has increase 49 percent, and student performance has yet to see improvements. However, Secretary Duncan stated, "America urgently needs to elevate the quality of K-12 schooling and boost college graduation rates, not simply to propel the economic recovery but also because students need stronger skills to compete in a global economy." To compete globally, we must consider international practices that are working. In their shoot-for-the-moon, Race to the Top competition, states should look to countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands for models of allowing the education funding to follow the child either to public, private, or independent schools. This method, not only equalizing the playing field for all children to have a chance of success-but by creating market competition saves the state money in the long run. In the U.S., existing school choice programs have saved nearly $444 million from 1990 to 2006. "I have visited 23 states in the past six months and have met countless students, teachers, parents, and administrators who hunger for change," says Duncan. Why not end that hunger once and for all with change from the bottom-up, instead of more top-down pablum that satisfies no one except defenders of the status quo?