Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pubic vs. Private sector education

In the comments COD mentioned that homeschoolers, "trust parents, teacher, and the free market, to find that better way once they are free of the restraints of forced schooling."

COD I'm with you on parents and teachers, but the free market? To deliver a better quality education for everyone? Based on the stark realities of capitalism, it is impossible to get a better quality education for everyone. Capitalism creates winners and losers.

COD is probably right that under a capitalistic system some schools would improve, but he overlooks that some would be worse off than they are now as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found out in its investigation into the 15 year old voucher scheme at Milwaukee School District. The MJS notes that 4 schools were forced to close due to poor performance in the past 18 months. An additional 9 refused to be observed. Of the 106 voucher schools visited, "there were about 10 to 15 schools where professionalism appeared lacking, facilities were not good, and the overall operation appeared alarming when it came to the basic matter of educating children." Got that? If 10 of 106 were alarming, that is a nearly 10% failure rate!

Remember that these schools aren't making cars, butter or widgets. They are working with children that get one shot at an education. A failing (public or private) school damages a child for life.

Yet, notice a key fundamental difference between a public sector and private sector education. Based on the laws of capitalism, it ALWAYS produces losers. A private educational system will do that, too. Yet, a public sector education can have universal success (like our interstate system - for example). In fact, many school districts are universally successful (as defined by our societies educational philosophy). Bill Gate's children's school district is universally successful. Every school is above standard on all measurements of reading, writing and math. I believe the school districts I went to are universally successful. I accept that not all is well in public education. The school district I worked for before coming to Britain is having real trouble, but that is a localized problem, not an institutional one.

Only public schooling can ensure equal opportunity for all.

Working here in Britian, I've been exposed to a much more developed private schooling system. Let me ensure you that the private schooling here is not designed to improve standards, but to ensure that a certain class of people stay that class. The private sector limits social mobility.

One of the main factors is cost. Notice this headline from the BBC - School fees 'outstrip inflation'. The average cost for a private school in Britain is now £8,388 ($15,124 USD). That is truly a steal compared to the £15,000 annual fee my school charges for middle school. We do offer an incredible education and always score high in all the appropriate tests, but only the upper and upper-middle class can realistically attend our school. We perpetuate the status quo.

America is better than that.