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Friday, August 02, 2013

Uncle Miltie (Not the Funny One)

Many conservatives have spent this week celebrating the birthday of Milton Friedman (which was July 31).  He was economic adviser to Reagan and couldn't say enough about a free market economic system.   His contribution to public education (from Wikipedia): (bold mine)

In his 1955 article "The Role of Government in Education" Friedman proposed supplementing publicly operated schools with privately run but publicly funded schools through a system of school vouchers.[48] Reforms similar to those proposed in the article were implemented in, for example, Chile in 1981 and Sweden in 1992.[49] In 1996, Friedman, together with his wife, founded The Foundation for Educational Choice to advocate school choice and vouchers.

The Texas Observer tells the story:

By repeating the arguments Friedman made 50 years ago, for starters, and decking them out in red, white and blue. As Donna Campbell reminded the room at the TPPF event: ”Folks, we’re in Texas. We’re in America. Choice. Shouldn’t parents have the freedom to choose the best school for their child?”

Lindsay Gustafson, with the Texas Classroom Teachers Association until recently, reprised her role as foil for TPPF’s school choice crowd—”My boss calls me the piñata at these things”—wondering how private schools would be accountable for how they spend public money. The school choice argument is rooted in the fear that our school system today is failing, and Gustafson said there are plenty of measures, like scores on the NAEP test, to show today’s schools are doing pretty well.

Peggy Venable, the Texas director for Americans for Prosperity, couldn’t let that one go: “One of the tragedies of our system,” she said, “is that we can sit here and say that our public schools are overall doing very well.” Venable reminded the room of the kids trapped in failing public schools, the reason vouchers are “the civil rights issue of our generation.”

Wait, I'm getting whiplash.  Ed reformers say public education, charters, school choice and now vouchers are the "civil rights issue of our generation."  If you are going to used such a meaningful and highly-charged phrase, you better be specific. 

Otherwise, it sounds a lot like pandering.

 And I thought charters - that haven't shown all that accountability that was promised - was not a good idea.  A check straight to private schools that are not accountable at all?  Again, not so much.


Over at the Washington Policy Center, they go on and on about districts not giving schools/teachers the money to buy supplies. 

Second, it is surprising that in public education, but not other professions, the practice of failing to provide basic workplace supplies for front-line employees is tolerated and excused.  Does UPS make its delivery drivers buy their own gas?  Do office workers have to bring their own pens and printer paper to work?  Of course not.

Just one tenth of the money added to the education budget this session would buy a year's worth of supplies for every public school student in the state.  Only in public education do district managers short their employees on basic supplies and make teachers spend their own money on classroom needs, or seek charity to fill the gap.

And then their suggestion is to give $95 to each parent for supplies.  (Not sure where that figure comes from.)  What?  Why not give the money to the school (economies of scale, maybe) and let them stock the building?   Odd but maybe I don't get the free market.

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