It isn’t as if smart people can’t come up with good ideas on their own, particularly when they are retired CEOs with lots of time on their hands. Regardless, I take a bit of pride in the fact that I thought up a pretty darn good “education reform plan” and actually took the time to write it up for people.
I will admit to borrowing some pretty good concepts from others. Obviously, Milton Friedman gets most of the credit for coming up with the entire concept of choice in education. The next round of credit goes to Illinois’ own Jeff Berkowitz (of “Public Affairs” fame). He re-introduced me to the obviously brilliant “fully-funded” scholarship idea. Why should the existing system be allowed to keep a dime? Next up, the Heartland Institute wrote an excellent policy study about a decade ago, proposing a way to fund scholarships through a combination of district-based, and state-based funding. Next, E.D.Hirsch, author of “Cultural Literacy” and “The Schools we Need – and why we don’t have them” chimed in with his excellent ideas on a robust and sequenced curriculum. Add to all that the good work done by the policy community in promoting charter schools, which offer a model to remove the school from the control of the bureaucrats.
All of this culminated in one huge insight that I came to on my own. What on God’s Green Earth do we need a “school district” for? The answer is “Nothing!”
Local control is a myth. The “district” is merely a bureaucratic “franchise” mechanism to create the illusion of local control while taxing property into oblivion so as to employ a class of protected, pampered bureaucrats and an oversupply of mediocre teachers.
Get rid of it. Lose millions of dollars of ugly pork overnight. You can now boil education reform down to 4 words in America. Fund Children, not Bureaucrats.
Apparently, retired CEOs are starting to realize the same thing.
40 Years of Education Reform
by Louis Gerstner
So, from someone who realized rather glumly last week that he has been working at school reform for 40 years, here is a prescription for leadership from the Obama administration.
We must start with the recognition that, despite decade after decade of reform efforts, our public K-12 schools have not improved. We can point to individual schools and some entire districts that have advanced, but the system as a whole is still failing. High school and college graduation rates, test scores, the number of graduates majoring in science and engineering all are flat or down over the past two decades. Disappointingly, the relative performance of our students has suffered compared to those of other nations. As a former CEO, I am worried about what this will mean for our future workforce.
It is most crucial for our political leaders to ask why we are at this point — why after millions of pages, in thousands of reports, from hundreds of commissions and task forces, financed by billions of dollars, have we failed to achieve any significant progress?
Hmmmm?! Greedy teacher’s unions, self-propagating bureaucrats, and overly-credulous soccer-moms, perhaps? Well, here is the best part. After detailing the problem, the illustrious Mr. Gerstner comes up with his proposal. What’s the FIRST item?
Therefore, I recommend that President-elect Barack Obama convene a meeting of our nation’s governors and seek agreement to the following:
- Abolish all local school districts, save 70 (50 states; 20 largest cities). Some states may choose to leave some of the rest as community service organizations, but they would have no direct involvement in the critical task of establishing standards, selecting teachers, and developing curricula.
He should have quit after the word “districts.” Why should engines of waste and corruption (city school districts) get to remain intact? If anything, they should be the first to be dismantled. Regardless, it is good to know that the idea is out there. I may not have been the first, but I’ve been one of the most vocal. The policy community is still taking baby steps of “charter expansion.” With Gerstner throwing this out into the meme pool, maybe others can eventually see the light.
We don’t need school districts and we don’t need teacher’s unions.
As for the other big piece of Gerstner’s idea, I think I have a better way. I’m all for a robust curriculum, but we can attain that goal with out the damage to individual choice that would be created by a “national curriculum.”
[ BTW, we already have a "national curriculum." It's the drivel that gets foisted on your kids by a gaggle of teachers who where indoctrinated in "ed-school." ]
If you read my plan, you’ll see that it creates the huge opportunity for all to access such a curriculum, while giving the newly created network of independent schools the freedom of how to teach it.
Add in “education savings accounts,” and you have the recipe for rapidly falling education costs with dramatic increases in results.