I love school choice, but something just happened that’s been a bitter pill for me to swallow.
One of my heroes is Dr. Rhee, the school superintendent in Washington D.C. who was thrown out of office because people objected to her single-minded mission to see that every child has access to good education and that school choice be central to that quest.
In many states, there’s a constant war over school choice. There are establishment players who love running Soviet-style education systems where, based on your address, you are told what schools you must attend. That’s so wrong I don’t know where to start.
I have been a longtime advocate of home schooling, charter schools and school vouchers. The latter is key to creating competition for the monopoly districts.
So it was very disturbing to me when a Georgia Supreme Court decision outlawed freedom for charter schools that are separate from school boards. So often local school boards are populated by people who resent anything that strays away from Soviet-style monopoly education. To have charters under their thumb is an abomination.
I believe we need to look at every possible way to improve the options for people going to school. Arizona is particularly exemplary in some ways. I like what they do where if a school becomes successful, you create almost a franchise of it. Likewise, I like the idea that a kid can go to school anywhere in the state without restricting them to the geographic location where they live.
We spend an enormous amount of resources on education on the federal, state and local levels. Even if you don’t have any kids, a huge part of your tax dollars go to educate others’ kids without much good return on investment. (Some schools and districts do a good job. That goes without saying, of course. But many don’t.)
One of the greatest indicators of whether a kid can climb the socioeconomic ladder in their lifetime is what education they have available to them. Social unrest is created when people feel the deck is stacked against them. So a key part of having a good capitalist system in the United States with free enterprise is making it possible for kids of any background to have access to good education.
We don’t have that right now, and we have a lot of schools where the drop-out rate is frightening. Once a kid drops out, tell me, what good can happen to him or her?
Editor’s note: This segment originally aired in May 2011.