Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Make 2017 the Year of Radical Change in Education

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This journey through the Charleston County School District, its triumphs and foibles, began almost a decade ago as I learned to my chagrin that the district I believed to have been long ago integrated was still de facto segregated for the poorest and least advantaged among us. Despite the best efforts of many in district administration, three superintendents, and numerous elected school board members, no meaningful change has occurred. Too many students are still stuck in failing schools.

If you are reading this blog, you probably are not among those whose children face that disaster every year. The disadvantaged lack the power and perhaps even the will or hope to see a better future. The system not only doesn't work for them yesterday and today; this system won't work for them tomorrow either. 

It is time for change, change that doesn't merely nibble around the edges of the problem. Fred Hiatt's op-ed reminds us that radical change is necessary. (See http://www.postandcourier.com/opinion/commentary/trump-has-chance-to-promote-right-kind-of-school-choice/ )

The situation in a nutshell, or paragraph as it were: "Millions of parents choose to send their children to parochial or other private schools. Millions more decide where to rent or buy a home based on the quality of the local public schools. The only people who do not enjoy this right are those who are too poor to move out of neighborhoods where public schools are failing. A disproportionate number of these are people of color."

If we adopted the system now used in the Netherlands and other countries, money for schools would be tied to the student, not the district. That means poor students (in both senses) would bring more money to the school to meet their needs. For example, a child of well-off parents with no disabilities might bring $5000, while one of a single-parent household on welfare might bring $15,000 or more. 

That difference shifts power to the poor. Isn't that what is needed to effect true change? Further, regardless of the school selected, the district would provide transportation to meet that need as well. 

Think change doesn't need to be radical? You don't have a child in a failing school.

Have a better idea to bring about radical change? Let's hear it.

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