Posts Tagged ‘school choice’

Guest Post: Chartered Course for Tennessee’s Kids

Guest Post: Chartered Course for Tennessee’s Kids

When is the last time you waited in line for 45 minutes? A concert? The DMV? If you’re a parent in Memphis, it’s possible that your answer is, “for a charter school.”

Last year, 800 Memphis parents waited in long lines for the Tennessee Charter School Association enrollment fair. Parent demand for alternative schooling options is high, and charter schools are narrowing the gap between parent demand and supply of schools. In fact, Shelby County is the first district in the state where charters will have at least 10 percent market share of schools. This comes as little surprise given that the charter sector has increased its market share nationwide faster than any other school type.

The Friedman Foundation recently surveyed Tennesseans and asked, “if it were your decision and you could select any type of school, what type of school would you select in order to obtain the best education for your child?”

       Here’s what Tennessee families said they want…

1st chart from Friedman

                 …but here’s what they are getting as evidence by current enrollment patterns:

2nd chart from Friedman*Homeschool enrollment NA

Clearly, parents have a need for diverse school choice options that simply are not being met. Although the charter sector is doing a commendable job at closing that gap, it’s time for private schools to step up. The most viable way for this to be achieved is through a private school voucher program.

Such a program would provide similar benefits to those of charter schools by offering children an education free at the point of delivery. It would also allow for new and unique educational models to develop that can better serve children’s needs. Most importantly, a private school voucher program would lower or remove private schools’ tuition barriers—making both charter and private schools an equally feasible option for families who have limited choices due to the cost of tuition.

Unfortunately, many private schools are not quite yet in a position to grow in the same way charters have been able to do, and may want to consider looking to the charter sector for best practices. In a new Friedman Foundation report, “The Chartered Course: Can Private School Choice Proponents Learn from the Charter School Sector?,” Andy Smarick, of Bellwether Education Partners, maps such a course for private schools interested in scaling up and ensuring quality educational opportunities for students they serve.

Although the charter sector is not the only source of best practices for private schools interested in expanding the supply and quality of their schools, it nonetheless provides a solid option. As Smarick’s report demonstrates, there are ways the private and charter sectors can work collaboratively—and successfully—to better serve more kids.

Tennessee parents are rightfully demanding more high-quality options in both the private and public sector for their children’s education. Why not open the doors for more choice programs and encourage collaboration between the sectors to meet these growing needs of families who need it the most? Other states are taking this course; it’s time Tennessee does, too.

- Stephanie Linn, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

July 25th, 2014 | Beacon Blog, Feature, Recent News

If the Shoe Fits…

If the Shoe Fits…

Runners know that there’s no “one size fits all” prescription for performing at your best. Searching for just the right running shoe is as exhausting as the marathon itself. Your training partner may thrive in a stability shoe, but you may be a toe-runner or have a neutral gait—either of which requires different footwear. Perhaps you pronate, or have narrow arches, or respond best in a minimalist shoe. The choices are endless, and we all know the consequences of making a decision that’s not right for our bodies. Fellow runners out there, can I get an “AMEN”?

The same can be said for our educations. Research shows our natural dispositions for learning matched with the appropriate instruction is as fundamentally essential to our development as proper equipment is to elite athletic performance. So why is something so vitally important generally treated with a blasé roll of the eyes by establishment education proponents bent against school choice?

Training runs in suitable gear prepare us to compete on the same stage as runners with access to personal trainers and top-quality apparel. Likewise, K-12 education and college academics prepare students for the competitive professional job market. So why are we trying to put every child into the same pair of outdated Keds tennis shoes—limiting their ability to pursue virtual learning, private schooling, or specialized tutoring—and expect that they can compete nationally and globally against children who’ve had access to higher quality educations?

Tennessee’s legislature failed to pass Governor Haslam’s opportunity scholarship proposal in the 2014 session, which ended hopes of school choice for Tennessee children this year. Meanwhile, only 17 percent of last year’s 12th-grade students in Tennessee reached the proficient level in math and just 31 percent in reading. These alarming facts reflect a system that’s producing negative results. Like they say, “if the shoe fits, wear it.” But if the shoe doesn’t fit? Find new shoes or suffer with blisters.

-Lindsay Boyd


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May 28th, 2014 | Beacon Blog, Feature, Recent News

Mark Zuckerberg’s Worst Investment

Mark Zuckerberg’s Worst Investment

What if fixing education has nothing to do with money? Consider the recent story of philanthropist and Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who, after making a gift of $100 million in 2010 to turn Newark, New Jersey into “a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation,” has seen his generosity senselessly squandered at the hands of Gov. Chris Christie and then Newark Mayor Corey Booker. As reported, more than 20 percent of the total sum was spent on consulting firms, many of whom made in excess of $1,000 per day.

Aside from Zuckerberg, no one got schooled as a result of his donation. And even though his philanthropic gesture missed the mark for educational excellence, it is indeed a symbol for something. That something being incentives, as the work of a British physician helps us understand. In the mid-1970’s, Dr. Max Gammon conducted a study of his country’s National Health Service (NHS). Between 1948 to 2000, he observed a direct correlation between hospital employees (his measure of input) and available hospital beds (output). As the former increased, the latter decreased. Dr. Gammon concluded that, in any heavily bureaucratic system, useful work tends to be displaced by useless work. This empirical observation has since been coined Gammon’s Law. This phenomenon not specific to the NHS, but in fact is alive and well in any heavily bureaucratic system. Since no system is more bureaucratic than ours in education, one can easily see Gammon’s Law wreaking havoc within it, even at the state level.

Take, for example, Beacon’s 2013 study showing that an increase in spending over a ten year period led to an increase in administration and management, and a decrease in the percent of that money spent on classroom instruction. More money won’t fix our problems in education. What we have is an incentive problem, plain and simple. No one spends other people’s money as wisely or efficiently as they spend their own. Milton Friedman once quipped that “When parents are free to choose, bureaucrats cannot dictate.” If you care about practical, winnable policy solutions to the actual problem in education, support those that reintroduce forces of free enterprise into education, like competition and freedom of choice. Rather than handing your money over to people like Christie and Booker, support the Beacon Center’s initiative to place the power of choice back where it belongs: in the hands of parents.

-Sam Cosby

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May 21st, 2014 | Beacon Blog, Feature, Recent News

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