Saturday, September 06, 2008

Close the Government Schools

From and something to consider although this isn't a Chicago-centric piece but I can see a relation to what's going on in Chicago especially with the school boycott that was called off.

On April 6, the Post ran an op-ed submission from Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, headlined “The Real Cost of Public Schools.”

“We’re often told that public schools are underfunded. In the District, the spending figure cited most commonly is $8,322 per child,” Mr. Coulson wrote.

“But total spending is close to $25,000 per child – on par with tuition at Sidwell Friends, the private school Chelsea Clinton attended in the 1990s.”

Mr. Coulson added up all sources of funding for education from kindergarten through 12th grade, excluding spending on charter schools and higher education.

“For the current school year,” he found, “the local operating budget is $831 million, including relevant expenses such as the teacher retirement fund. The capital budget is $218 million. The District receives about $85.5 million in federal funding. And the D.C. Council contributes an extra $81 million. Divide all that by the 49,422 students enrolled (for the 2007–08 year) and you end up with about $24,600 per child.

“For comparison, total per pupil spending at D.C. area private schools – among the most upscale in the nation – averages about $10,000 less. For most private schools, the difference is even greater.

So why force most D.C. children into often dilapidated and underperforming public schools when we could easily offer them a choice of private schools?

“Some would argue that private schools couldn’t or wouldn’t serve the District’s special education students, at least not affordably,” Mr. Coulson wrote. “Not so.

“Consider Florida’s McKay Scholarship program, which allows parents to pull their special-needs children out of the public schools and place them in private schools of their choosing. Parental satisfaction with McKay is stratospheric, the program serves twice as many children with disabilities as the D.C. public schools do, and the average scholarship offered in 2006-’07 was just $7,206. The biggest scholarship awarded was $21,907 – still less than the average per-pupil spending in D.C. public schools. If Florida can satisfy the parents of special-needs children at such a reasonable cost, why can’t the District?

“The answer, of course, is that it could.”

Instead, Mr. Coulson concludes, the failure to “think outside the box” leaves Washington’s parents, students, teachers, and even well-meaning reformers trying to “manage a bureaucracy so Byzantine it would give Rube Goldberg an aneurysm.
Read the whole thing. An interesting piece with regards to the public school system and what needs to be down to build a system that puts our students first. That should be the first job of any education system to provide the best services and facilities possible to education our students.

Let me just say sometimes I question if Americans treat an education as a right (or entitlement) instead of a privilege. I'd say if it was more of a privilege instead of an entitlement would our students take it more seriously? Indeed would our parents? Getting an excellent education should be serious business and I would say let's treat it as such.

BTW, I'm working on a post talking about what would happen when I get to see my former high school classmates at a class reunion in the future. My thesis would be that while it's great to meet and greet old friends but we could also do something to make our alma mater better. Even better than it was when we went to school there. Stay tuned.

Article via Newsalert!

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