Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 17, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

HOBGOBLINS....McMegan muses today about education policy and wonders if the issues are similar to those in healthcare, where American liberals are usually in favor of single-payer healthcare (like Medicare, where doctors all work for themselves but service is paid for by the feds) but not so excited about single-provider healthcare (like Britain's NHS, where the doctors all work directly for the government):

This is a common enough argument in debates over healthcare success -- I'm for single payer, not the NHS! -- but it never occurred to me to wonder if those people felt the same way about school funding.

Question of the day: should one be required to stake out a consistent policy across school and healthcare funding? Or can some single-payer supporter explain to me why healthcare will work with what is basically a voucher system, but education won't?

My initial answer is no, there's no reason to be consistent here. Healthcare has some unique characteristics that (I believe) end up pointing toward single-payer as the best, most efficient solution for universal coverage. It's different from the defense industry or the housing industry or the soft drink industry, all of which operate better using different models.

Still, what is the difference? I'd argue that a big part of it is regulation. Healthcare is a very heavily regulated industry and there are a broad variety of mechanisms that work to ensure a minimum level of competence, from basic research all the way down the food chain to your family pediatrician. Obviously these mechanisms aren't perfect, but overall they do a pretty good job. Speaking generally, the government can pretty much assume that the pills you're taking are safe and that any doctor who's board certified and follows the rules isn't a crackpot who's convinced that regular bleedings are the answer to all your health problems.

Schools are different. Private schools not only don't have to meet minimum standards, they fight like cats and dogs to insist on their right not to meet minimum standards. And that's just not going to fly. If you want taxpayer dollars, you have to meet taxpayer standards. Otherwise you're just shoveling cash to anyone who can pack kids into a room that meets the building code.

This is, roughly speaking, why I favor charter schools but not vouchers. Charter schools allow experimentation, which I like, and freedom from some of the worst of the public bureaucracy, but still have to meet some defined standards. I'm not worried much about the standards at $15,000-a-year private schools, but I am worried about the standards at storefront operations in the inner city. The prospect of massive abuse is just too great.

For a variety of reasons, I suspect that private schools will never accept any serious oversight from the state. For that reason, I think that just as the idiosyncrasies of the healthcare market point to single-payer as the best solution for universal health coverage, the idiosyncrasies of the education market point to a combination of public and charter schools as the best solution for universal education coverage. Charter school advocates pretty loudly claim that they all have the silver bullet for educating the kids who are most poorly served by public schools today, and I say, let 'em try. Maybe some of them do. And as long as they're held to a reasonable minimum set of standards, the ones that don't probably aren't going to do any worse than public schools.

Kevin Drum 12:34 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

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Kevin: But why couldn't we have an educational system that allows for a wide degree of choice -- and even operates on a fully voucherized model -- but that also includes a robust level of governmental regulation and monitoring (ie., only those schools that meet certain standards can receive taxpayer money)?

It seems to me schools that are owned and operated by a government body are just as capable of not reaching standards as a school owned and operated by, say, a private not-for-profit group. Moreover, at least under a voucherized school system (as with say, France's single payer healthcare model) customers can voter with their feet.

Posted by: Jasper on March 17, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

It may seem contradictory on the surface, but I don't think single payer vs. single provider health care is an issue that defines liberalism.

Our tradition for the last two hundred years or so has been for publicly provided education and privately provided consumer health care. Perhaps as we come to recognize efficiencies of scale and a certain level of health as a basic right we will evolve more toward the single provider system.

Actually, many military and veterans' hospital doctors do work for the government. Many civilian doctors work for the Department of Health and Human Services, including NIH, Centers for Disease Control, etc. Project Hope, The Peace Corps etc. also employ doctors.

We saw some of the problems with single payer education back in the 40s and 50s, when whites formed seg academies thorughout the south to avoid attending school with black. Feeds the "separate but equal" and "states rights" arguments. Part of our claim to be an advanced country is based on the guarantee of a basic level of education we offer all children.

Imagine if half the population grew up not knowing what the Bill of Rights contained. Oh, wait . . .

Posted by: pj in jesusland on March 17, 2007 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

I believe it's the wrong argument. Instead of spending so much time talking about how we pay for these services, can we spend a little time talking about their quality?

Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on March 17, 2007 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Charter school advocates pretty loudly claim that they all have the silver bullet for educating the kids who are most poorly served by public schools today, and I say, let 'em try.

I, too, say "let 'em try." But what's the major functional difference between this and a full-fledged voucher system? A system that has lots of charter schools competing for tax dollars is a de facto voucher system, isn't it?

Posted by: Jasper on March 17, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

A study of charter schools in Ohio found that they did a slightly worse job of educating children then public schools did. I suspect that the level of involvement of parents or parent is the biggest factor in educational success not the funding.

Posted by: Gandalf on March 17, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

What Kevin says. With a gloss.

It's not so much that private schools want to avoid regulation. Our society has made a pretty fundamental decision that private schools should avoid regulation. We are on a dangerous fault line here: the intersection of liberty, society, and the family unit. We reject kibbutzim. They might be good for society, but we view them as an unacceptable intrusion on the family unit. The state school is not as intrusive as the kibbutz, but is still pretty intrusive. The pain that the anti-evolutionists feel is real, even though creationism is a crock of shit.

Our response is complex. Notwithstanding intrusiveness, we provide state schools, for all kinds of good social reasons, with which I agree. We also provide a safety valve: private education. This safety valve has NOTHING to do with the efficacy of state schools, or competition, or anything instrumental like that. It exists because of our complex feelings about the family and liberty. Therefore, pretty much by its nature, it has to be unregulated, or at most very lightly regulated. There are a lot of negatives associated with this, such as seg academies. But it flows out of some pretty fundamental American values.

This argument does not apply to all societies. The Israelis do (or did?) nicely with kibbutzim. The Brits have highly regulated private schools. (Or, much the same, religious state schools.) Etc. But it is a true American political fundamental.

Posted by: Joe S. on March 17, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect that the level of involvement of parents or parent is the biggest factor in educational success not the funding.

The biggest factor in educational success, as numerous studies have shown, is the level of educational attainment of the parents. This datapoint correlates more tightly with the academic success of children than even income or wealth (though certainly in our society the most highly educated also tend to be, broadly speaking, the most affluent). My guess is that America's most fortunate kids are not often found in charter schools, because their parents are able to exercise school choice. By purchasing homes in top school districts. By contrast, charter schools often are the safety valve for large, dysfunctional urban school districts, and as such they tend to attract a lot of poor children whose parents haven't had much in the way of education.

Posted by: Jasper on March 17, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

EDIT ALERT!!!!

"McMegan"?

Jeez, Kevin, give the poor woman a break: "Jane Galt"'s alter ego is Megan McArdle.

Spelling, in some cases, does: where did you go to school???

Posted by: Jay C on March 17, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

EDIT ALERT !!!!!

"McMegan"?

Jeez, Kevin: give the poor woman a break: "Jane Galt"'s alter ego is Megan McArdle.

Spelling should count for something: where did you go to school, anyway???

Posted by: Jay C on March 17, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Oops.

Back to html class for me.......

Posted by: Jay C on March 17, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

I favor locally funded, locally run schools.

I would rather federalize the hospital emergency rooms across the nation than federalize the schools.

Posted by: Matt on March 17, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

We have thousands of individual school districts and therefore thousands of education providers. We likely have more education providers than medical providers, certainly more than medical payers.

Posted by: Rob on March 17, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone that dubs herself "Jane Galt" and then trots out fast-food libertarianism is free to be nick named McMegan. McRand may be more accurate.

Posted by: jerry on March 17, 2007 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

And please quit trashing the liberal's good name.

Federalization of anything is a progressive, not a liberal philosophy. I think progressives try to sneak their programs onto sound liberal management, and liberals have to watch out for that.

Posted by: Matt on March 17, 2007 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Matt, in all sincerity, can you help me distinguish between liberalism, liberal progressivism, and progressivism?

I sometimes use the terms interchangeably.

Posted by: jerry on March 17, 2007 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

You've almost made the analogy. The key question for both health care and education is whether providers who accept government payment agree to accept it as FULL payment.

That is the primary difference between vouchers and charter schools. If schools can charge whatever they want on top of the voucher, then vouchers just become a transfer to those who already insist on denying others the sort of education they demand for their own children. Can't pay another $12,000 a year to go to St. Marks? - so sorry, but at least you had the option to escape those tragic public schools.

Similarly if Medicare allows providers to demand payments that exceed the schedule it stops being an insurance system that insures access to all seniors and controls costs and becomes a subsidy to those seniors who can pay the extra cost to access the benefits.

THAT is a defining issue for Democrats. Republicans seem to have no problem with Government taxing ordinary Americans to create a pool of funds that can only be tapped by wealthy contractors, or by foreign corporations or by rich folks who want help sending their kids to private schools, but balk at programs that insure that ordinary Americans have access to decent health insurance or education.

Democrats believe in government as an institution to improve the collective welfare, not as an enterprise to enrich the powerful at the expense of the weak and gullible.

E

Posted by: economaniac on March 17, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Am I missing something? Most school funding is local. It would be a miracle if adjoining public school districts pooled funds and spent it on a per student basis.

Posted by: B on March 17, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Let's just privatize public schools.

It's worked well in the adventure in Iraq, hasn't it.

And shouldn't social security be private accountized too?

FEMA's efforts have been partially privatized since Clinton. The sorry recovery after Katrina is a testimony to that trend.

Sarcasm aside....
The problem is school funding. Why not funnel prison-building, oil-lease, rich tax-payer tax cut, and Iraq war debacle funds into schools?

Is our children learning?

Rich school districts don't have many NCLB "under=performing" schools.

I know some will say funding alone won't solve our school woes. But think how equitable funding could provide extended hours, homework clubs, enrichment activities, tutoring; all of which have been shown to increase student graduation rates.

Investing in education is society's charge. Those with money shouldn't be the only ones who get a good education!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on March 17, 2007 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

The most important difference between charter and private schools is that the former aren't allowed to reject "difficult" students to make their success records higher -- which has a direct analog with the health-care reform question.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on March 17, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

I remember someone saying something once about a false consistency and small minds, but it's too insulting to repeat in this rarefied atmosphere.

Posted by: perianwyr on March 17, 2007 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of Charter schools, the Gorman Learning Center
School misused funds, audit finds
The Gorman Learning Center charter program overspent millions, a state report alleges, including $20,000 for an office aquarium.
By Joel Rubin, Times Staff Writer
March 17, 2007
An unorthodox charter school operation bilked the state of more than $7.5 million, engaged in blatant nepotism, and spent tens of thousands of dollars on personal travel, expensive meals and assorted luxuries — including a $20,000 aquarium — according to the results of an audit released Friday by the Los Angeles County Department of Education....
Waldo Burford, Gorman's executive director, acknowledged that mistakes were made in applying for state funds and conceded that bookkeeping and oversight were lax during the school's rapid expansion. But he denied any intentional wrongdoing and said improvements have been made in overseeing the finances of the program.....

Posted by: Mike on March 17, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

But we don't know if private schools have a higher success rate than public ones. The experience in my state is that voucher and private schools refuse to give out any data that would allow us to measure the academic achievement of their students. I long ago came to the conclusion that this debate isn't about learning or academic achievement, its about social policy. Isn't it interesting that the same people who want to give a pass to voucher and private schools in their fight against state mandated standardized testing on the elementary and secondary level are also demanding that standardized testing be the only criteria used in admission to colleges. They don't want a middle class, thats the bottom line.

Posted by: aline on March 17, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

why couldn't we have an educational system that allows for a wide degree of choice -- and even operates on a fully voucherized model -- but that also includes a robust level of governmental regulation and monitoring (ie., only those schools that meet certain standards can receive taxpayer money)?

Lots of liberals would support a voucher system that worked that way. I know I'd consider it. But government regulation of any kind is a total deal-breaker for the wingnuts who make up the core of the movement to privatize the schools.

Posted by: kth on March 17, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

The health-care system and the education system are structured entirely differently.

First: not everybody needs medical treatment. Everybody needs an education.

Second: In the health-care system, you chose a doctor, then choose a dentist, then a pediatrician, then an opthalmologist. And the next time you go, you can choose a different doctor--or you can choose not to go.

It might be an interesting experiment to let a kid go to a different institution for each subject, or decide not to send him or her at all next week--but I can tell you what the results would be.

Third (and this is the thing that everybody who uses the Econ 101/Libertarian set of arguments on education always seem to forget: The person getting the treatment and the person making the choices in education are not the same person.

Especially with education, which is the most intangible of things, the relationship is between the school and the child, and focused entirely thereon. But someone else makes the decision on schooling based on--what?

Is a system that would allow PARENTS to casually switch a child's school around based on their own criteria a good idea? In a vitallly important process that takes a long time to achieve, and whose most important results are not always measurable--the options are not 'coercion' versus 'choice', but coercion either way--for the child.

Posted by: pbg on March 17, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

After the basic mechanics of the 3 R's, schools are about INDOCTRINATION - political systems (why ours is better than anybody elses), submission to the rule of law, submission to "the system".

Would George Bush still be in office if angry "uneducated" peasants were the mass of this nation?

Posted by: sidewinder on March 17, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

There have been plenty of badly run, unregulated storefront charter schools. Look to Ohio for the worst scandals, but they are scattered in many states.

Posted by: MQ on March 17, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Our country has an elaborate and moderately rigorous system of accreditation for private schools, just as it does for private colleges. Why not make vouchers usable only at accredited schools, just like much of the government grants and low-interest loans to colleges are usable only at accredited colleges?

Posted by: Steve Sailer on March 17, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

If private schools are going to get our tax dollars for funding by vouchers or other deals, then they need to meet the standards we impose on them. Public schools have to meet imposed standards to get tax money. This is a very good reason for private schools being private and not beholden to the demands of taxpayers.

Posted by: bakho on March 17, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

'Health care, however, is different. No matter who you are, no matter how you live, sooner or later you will become old, sick and need medical help. When you need medical care you will be the least able to afford it. Why should this be a matter of private insurance? And why should this "insurance" be tied to your job? Why do Americans always think of health care as a matter of employer provided "insurance" when this is not the way it works elsewhere in the world?'

The Docile American: The Nexus of God, Labor, Health Care and the Fear to Strike
by Zbignew Zingh

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/5495

Foreign-born people are more likely than the population at large to be in the labor force (67.7 percent vs. 65.8 percent) and less likely to be unemployed (4.6 percent vs. 5.2 percent). "Since 2000," the report notes, "the foreign born have accounted for 46 percent of the net gain in the total labor force." BLS

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 17, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

What chutzpah!

Even libs like the 60 Minutes producers do a segment every 18 months or so on the latest embezzlement outrages in Medicare or MediCal, and we don't hear a peep from the Political Animal; likewise with food stamps at convienence stores or any other domestic government income transfer... yet the fear of lax accounting controls has to trump common sense when it comes to giving parents some voice in their child's education. Look, I know the teacher's unions [that currently guarantee failure for an astonishing percentage of students] are going to trot out the outlier Farrakan school as a boogieman, but sound policy should be based on doing the greatest good for the greatest number -- if a school can demonstrate it's students can read and write and add and subtract, isn't that lightyears ahead of the "accounability" we have now?

Posted by: minion on March 17, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

"...Notwithstanding intrusiveness, we provide state schools, for all kinds of good social reasons, with which I agree. We also provide a safety valve: private education. This safety valve has NOTHING to do with the efficacy of state schools, or competition, or anything instrumental like that. It exists because of our complex feelings about the family and liberty..."
Posted by: Joe S. on March 17, 2007 at 1:48 PM

Before you can solve problems, you need to identify what the "problems" are. I think what you have said gets to the heart of the matter of one problem. Parents who want to isolate-inoculate-indoctrinate their children away from mainstream society are probably much less concerned about their measurable academic performance than they are about "where their head's at". It is a control issue not a performance issue. The other problem is reaching out to poor students who in many cases have parents who are either absent, disinterested, or fatalistic with regard to the educational environment for their children. That is where the public is tasked to pick up the ball and it turns into primarily a performance issue and a different problem entirely.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on March 17, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

When it comes down to it, the difference between "single payer" and "single provider" may be mostly illusion. At some point, the one who's paying the bills makes the rules.

Posted by: harry on March 17, 2007 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

To carry the analogy a bit further, as long as a single-payer system does not make private insurance (i.e. "private schools") illegal, there will still be some choice.

Posted by: harry on March 17, 2007 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

I think the doctor's guild plays a big part in preventing the socialization of medicine in the US. Doctors want to be both healers and self-employed entrepreneurs.

Posted by: Brojo on March 17, 2007 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Education is an integral part of the healthcare system. The availability of students as well as the cost of tuition affects the cost and availability of services provided by doctors.

Posted by: Eric on March 17, 2007 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta love Matthew Yglesias: 25 years old, exclusive private schools his entire life, no children (that he knows of), doesn't volunteer at the school in his poor DC neighborhood, less than 24 months ago he was asking why there were two national teachers' unions - yet he wants to be given a magic wand to wave to recreate public education.

I really start to worry that Obama might bring a bunch of such super-smart, totally inexperienced 25 y.o. "policy analysts" to Washington with his administration and do more damage rather than repair what W has wrecked.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 17, 2007 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

> But we don't know if private schools have
> a higher success rate than public ones.

At least in the days of the big urban religious school systems we did: they sent any underachievers and all troublemakers back to the public schools within a semester, so by definition we can be pretty sure that the ones who remained were better than average. For some reason the public schools didn't have that option.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 17, 2007 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

We have a minimum required level of service for one and we don't for another? Duh.

...Unless they want their private schools to be as strictly policed, licensed and with the same liability as medical providers.

But less snarky, education is something which can be done poorly, and the consequences of it aren't immediate. The consequences of bad medicine are generally much more immediate.

Posted by: Crissa on March 17, 2007 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

Rich school districts don't have many NCLB "under=performing" schools.

Technically, we do: As they were already performing pretty well, they couldn't improve by the same amount each year. And as we approach the 100% mark, more and more will fail.

Why? Because it's not the school's fault some kids don't have a home to go to. Or go smoke pot. Or whatever - even smart, passing kids can make a school run afoul of the testing mark if they happen to have test anxiety.

There's thousands of kids in most schools now. You're going to tell me that not one is going to screw up?

Posted by: Crissa on March 17, 2007 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

>> Rich school districts don't have many
>> NCLB "under=performing" schools.

> Technically, we do: As they were already
> performing pretty well, they couldn't
> improve by the same amount each year. And
> as we approach the 100% mark, more and more
> will fail.

As I described over on Yglesias' site, our not-rich-but-reasonably-good school district now has an incentive to dump our voluntary transfer students from the nearby (failed) urban district, because as hard as we try we can't get them all up to grade level given how far behind some of them started. That is dragging us below the magic "failure" number, so to protect ourselves we may have to send them back to the city. Nice eh?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 17, 2007 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Another difference between education and health care is that health care is inherently private, and education is inherently social. Society has a vested interest in having its citizens learning together and learning a common body of knowledge and a shared set of values. Because there are reasons for us learning together, a single provider makes more sense than in health care.

As a former school board member, I feel that the role of school boards is often overlooked. Rather than trying to get more charter schools, I think we should spend more time urging people to think of their local school districts as "charter districts" and, as a result, actively participating in citizen governance at the district level.


Posted by: school board guy on March 18, 2007 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

Um, Kevin? Since when do school voucher supporters want a single-payer system for education?

I can only imagine the category-5 shitcyclone that would spin up from the right wing noise machine if liberals started seriously proposing to force every private school in the country to send all their bills to the government to be paid in full.

It'd be pretty damned funny, though.

Posted by: s9 on March 18, 2007 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

What is the difference between single payer and single provider health care? I honestly don't know. I will guess that single provider means that doctors are government employees while single payer they are sub-contractors (or the euivalent). Unless single provider also implies that I as a patient am no longer allowed to choose my own doctor, I don't see the difference.

Posted by: Scott Wood on March 18, 2007 at 6:27 AM | PERMALINK

Cranky--you're right, except you have understated the problem.

If you run a public school with 2000 students, and there are 500 students from outside your district who want to transfer in, even if their costs would be covered, why would you want them?

It means you have to hire more teachers, who by the Law of Diminishing Returns won't be as good as the first batch of teachers you hired. You have to find more space, something most schools can't do. It means you have to think about transportation issues that have no simple solution. It means your school no longer represents your community. It means bringing in a lot of new students that didn't go to earlier grades with your current students and teachers. It goes against the trend to want smaller schools.

And there's also the problems that you mention.

Nobody should be surprised that schools don't want the extra students. It's just one more piece of evidence that nobody who ever worked in a school had any input into NCLB.

Posted by: reino on March 18, 2007 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

Another Bush apologist makes another false equivalence? Yawn.

Why do you care what an intellectually dishonest hack like McArdle has to say? Ford knows the Republicans and their bootlickers like McArdle offer precious little in the way of compelling argumentation, so maybe you have to take what you can get, but why validate this hack with a response?

Posted by: Gregory on March 18, 2007 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Meh. Either you teach networking theory or you don't.

Posted by: bago on March 18, 2007 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a homeschooling parents because I don't see that either public school or private school is doing a good job of preparing kids for the new information based economy. Contrary to what someone else said earlier, education is very much 'personal' and not 'social' because every kid's interests and abilities are different - group learning holds back some kids and leaves others behind.

And technology has changed everything; in theory, not in practice. Expensive textbooks should be a thing of the past. There are stable and free software products like Kubuntu / Ubuntu and OpenOffice that would radically cut the costs of computers and can even make more effective use of older hardware. I won't going totally nerdy and mention everything else because it's so easy to figure out for anyone who knows how to read comments on a blog - but the existing educational structure is firmly rooted in 1960s thinking.

The thing that jumped out at me from Kevin's post is the emphasis on 'standards'. The whole problem is the standards. My son was homeschooled until grade six - then he went to public school for 7th and 8th. He made honor roll and was put in the gifted program, all on his own; I didn't do anything to try to 'get him into' the gifted program.

After about a month of high school, he asked to be homeschooled again. Public school wasn't a challenge for him and he had no problem making friends or any of the other social problems homeschoolers are rumored to have. The standards at the school were incredibly low by my standards and I'm not being nitpicky.

Someone else mentioned how important a factor the parents are in a child's educational outcome. Unfortunately, a lot of parents use the educational system as free babysitting and an excuse to let the educational 'experts' handle their children. It's not their fault, exactly. Our economy more or less requires both parents to work and that means there's a need for free babysitting services to keep the middle class treading water.

Posted by: Lee Stranahan on March 18, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Depends on the school I suppose. You can have your IT badasses and you can have your dogmatic religous wankers.

Posted by: bago on March 18, 2007 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

I know this is a late entry, but Lee Stranahan hit the nail on the head about why we rascally conservatives want vouchers so badly -- it's not primarily a jihad against the teacher's unions. The main reason we want vouchers is to reinject some parental responsiblity into the system. After 50 years of The Great Society there are vast numbers of single and/or oblivious parents who think education is something the government is supposed to pour into their kid's head while they're watching Maury and Montel.

Posted by: minion on March 18, 2007 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

"The main reason we [conservatives] want vouchers is to reinject some parental responsiblity into the system. After 50 years of The Great Society there are vast numbers of single and/or oblivious parents who think education is something the government is supposed to pour into their kid's head while they're watching Maury and Montel."

While it makes me feel all nostalgic to read such a charming social engineering proposal, there would seem to be a few problems. If there are vast numbers of parents who don't take minimum responsibility for education, how is giving them more responsibility actually going to help?

There are numerous issues here, but what it boils down to is this: some well-behaved kids with highly responsible, motivated, and culturally-literate parents will, in fact benefit: the schools they are sent to might not be run especially better - they certainly won't be top-notch institutions, which will find sadly unsurmountable obstacles to letting in more than a handful, at mostm of those sorts of kids - but they will be with students from similar backgrounds. Some kids with parents just slightly less on the ball - or just unlucky - will end up stuck in scams that sound good but are even worse. The remaining kids, with parents who lack this degree of understanding, knowledge, energy, motivation, or even ability to function, will be stuck in defunded public schools at even greater concentrations.

The problem here is a very conservative one - you're seeing as individual lack of responsibility something that - though it includes it - is a much larger problem. I was a teacher in Philly; my wife still is. Some parents are simply incapable of taking on this responsibility. The majority really care about their kids, but many lack the time, energy, knowledge, social/culture capital, etc. to be effective advocates in navigating this kind of system.

Posted by: Dan S. on March 19, 2007 at 7:35 AM | PERMALINK

One fairly obvious difference is that the voucher school idea is merely a way to fund religious schools with public money. I don't think people in the will use their medical "voucher" to "fund" doctors on the basis of religious belief.

Posted by: John on March 19, 2007 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

If there are vast numbers of parents who don't take minimum responsibility for education, how is giving them more responsibility actually going to help?

Because muscles atrophy if you don't use them and they grow when you exercise them.

I agree with Dan that there's a larger problem with many parents being incapable - but let's solve that problem. The government should be doing thing to help really empower parents. I don't think vouchers are much of a solution becuase it's still dealing with old thinking about education with schools as brick and mortar day care facilities.

Posted by: Lee Stranahan on March 19, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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