Latest Posts

Home

Facebook

Twitter

Search
About

Best Serving the Interests of Students, Not the Bureaucratic Convenience of Grown-Ups

My American Experiment colleague Catrin Thorman was on-target when she concluded her recent blog about a three-part series in the Star Tribune regarding public school choice in the Twin Cities.  “The pressures school choice is putting on Minnesota public schools,” she wrote, “is not a bad thing.  It creates a competitive environment that pushes low-performing districts to improve so they keep and attract students who have the chance to go elsewhere.  Educational freedom means families – not zip codes – choose where their children attend school.”

A couple of complementary points, if I might.

Just in case a younger generation of critics assumes that the complexities facing superintendents posed by mobile students are the products of right-wing plots, please note that a string of open enrollment breakthroughs were led by Gov. Rudy Perpich, very much a DFLer, in the latter half of the 1980s.  Before Perpich’s great work, school attendance zones were regularly referred to as the “Berlin Walls” of K-12 education.  Thanks to Perpich and others, those walls came tumbling down, just like Gorbachev and Reagan knocked the brick and stuffing out of the one running down Germany’s spine.

In fairness, and as someone who has worked for the president of two public universities, I recognize that educational institutions can have an extra-hard job excelling unless they can count on reasonably stable funding; dollars not overly tied to how many young people they attract in any given year.   But at the same time, and the point is decisive, the fundamental aim of public education is to best serve the interests of students, not the bureaucratic convenience of grown-ups.

A final point about what was missing from an otherwise strong series.  The paper defined school choice as essentially limited to charters schools and what might be called “out-of-district district schools.”  Glaring by its absence was any mention of “independent schools” or “non-government schools,” also known as “private schools,” be they religiously flavored or not.

I recognize, of course, that the metaphoric wall when discussing more substantial educational freedom is a Rubicon for many.  But if one starts from the premise that teacher unions and holders of other holey arguments should not be allowed to abridge a mother and father’s options for their children, and that research is clear that many low-income and minority students simply do better in private schools, perhaps future three-part series in the Strib will have a fourth.

Comments

Subscribe

Categories

Upcoming Events

  • Fall Briefing Featuring Alan Dershowitz

    Location: Ordway Center for the Performing Arts 345 Washington Street, St. Paul, MN 55102

    Please join Center of the American Experiment at the 2018 Fall Briefing featuring Alan M. Dershowitz as he shares his thoughtful analysis of freedom of speech in an era of increasingly divisive and hostile political rhetoric. Dershowitz is one of the nation’s “most distinguished defenders of individual rights.” A graduate of Brooklyn College and Yale Law School, he joined the Harvard Law School faculty at age 25, the youngest in the school’s history, and became an Emeritus professor after 50 years of teaching and 10,000 students. Dershowitz has published more than 1,000 articles and authored 35 fiction and non-fiction works,…

    Register Now