Is School Choice a Silver Bullet?

Eric Luedtke of Free State Politics asserts that conservatives consider vouchers a “silver bullet”. A few weeks ago my call for merit pay (hardly an original idea) was claimed as some sort of conservative silver bullet.

No one on the right that I am aware of has made such a claim. Whether it be vouchers, a comprehensive program of school choice, the institution of teacher accountability, or merit pay – all (and more) are part of a comprehensive solution to improve our public schools. This sure beats the hell out of the NEA’s solution: tax people more, spend more money, don’t demand any objective results.

Personally, I could care less about a child’s “self-esteem” as long as he or she can read, write and cipher. Nothing improved my middle son’s “self-esteem” more than earning the highest grade in his first math class this summer at Salisbury University; or being one of the top two or three in his second, and much larger class. (BTW – He just finished his junior year in high school and had to repeat both pre-algebra and algebra a few years back.) Nothing builds “self-esteem” like hard work and study; something that our current public schools have either forgotten or chosen to ignore.

More Silver Bullets Below the Fold

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Back to school choice –
The notion that competition is somehow bad, or won’t work, is to be expected from people like Luedtke, and organizations like the NEA, who honestly don’t believe that the free market works. If money follows the child, then the best schools will be rewarded and the poor performing schools will suffer. They scream bloody murder when they are tagged as socialists, but that is exactly what they are. Sorry Eric, calling a spade a spade is not argumentum ad hominem.

My Red Maryland colleague Brian Griffiths slams Luedtke’s arguments against vouchers. I certainly couldn’t do as well and I even wonder if our colleague Mark Newgent could do better. If you care about education and are intellectually honest, I hope you take time to thoroughly read Brian’s post AND the Heartland Institute’s pamphlet on school choice.

As someone who had children in both public and private schools (I still have two in private school) I neither claim that public schools are the bogey man nor that private schools will be the salvation of our nation. What I do claim is that our public education system needs drastic reform and that the NEA and its membership have a vested interest in keeping the current failed structure in place.

While I support unionism and the right to organize, we must accept the fact that the NEA (and its siblings) share a sizable portion of the blame for our failed education system just as our industrial unions share the blame in the failure of our nation’s auto, steel, rubber, and ….. industries. Since they are not willing to be part of the solution we need boards of education with the courage to impose solutions upon them.

It took the NEA 30+ years to wreck our system of public education. It will take quite a while for a comprehensive solution to bear fruit in individual districts. School choice is but one part of that solution; but a solution none the less.

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