The new education reform is like the old education reform

Some bad news aimed at President Bush's push to fund independent (read school choice) initiatives took a serious blow this week. Or did it? After looking at some very basic numbers, I found the latter to be the case.

I was reading something over the weekend about edumication. It was from our infallible friends at the New York Times, and they offered a story on how "Public Schools Perform Near Private Ones in Study" (you can get the full report here). At first I thought this was a bad thing, really, until I went into the numbers.

As the article points out, they weren't just going at the facts carelessly, they went in and made sure that they were weighted as fairly as possible. I had a real quibble with the language they used, calling the other Christian schools Conservative Christian. I can find absolutely no reasoning for the distinction, at all, as there were no (0) contributing Liberal Christian schools. While there are Liberal Christian schools, that such distinction was made points to some sort of bias.

Inside the attached PDF, I didn't find anything besides the conspicuous labeling that was out of place. The numbers lined up with the private schools getting the same performance out of students as the public school systems. It was this sort of thing that prompted the NYT to print this stinger at the end of the story:

Two weeks ago, the American Federation of Teachers, on its Web log, predicted that the report would be released on a Friday, suggesting that the Bush administration saw it as "bad news to be buried at the bottom of the news cycle."

The deputy director for administration and policy at the Institute of Education Sciences, Sue Betka, said the report was not released so it would go unnoticed. Ms. Betka said her office typically gave senior officials two weeks’ notice before releasing reports. "The report was ready two weeks ago Friday,’’ she said, “and so today was the first day, according to longstanding practice, that it could come out."

At this, I flung myself into despair, as there were now proof that all my hopes and dreams of freedom of choice in education were ruined. Now there was nothing to do, but realize that the public school system was superior in every way, and to close all the Church schools. That's the only real, logical conclusion one can come to.

(Aside - Funny how I can use those words on everything but liberal bastions of power? No choice there. You WILL pay for Social Security, MedicAID, and other things that fail miserably.)

As I read through the careful analysis of the details, I came to a startling realization: the only real difference between the public and private school systems was that one was paid for by the parents, and the other was paid for by me. In another of a long string of hit pieces on Bush Administration policies, they'd given me an epiphany.

If you want a way of looking at it that's mildly chart-like, look at this:

Public School
Zillions of dollars
Private School
Nones of dollars

I hope this clears up any ambiguity in my position. Seriously, I find little reason to think that is bad news for independent schools. There's little reason that the underfunded private school system would be able to keep up with an institution, yet it either is the same, slightly behind, or even better.

If I were interested in true educational system reform, I'd do the same thing as every other institution: reward the programs that work, and get rid of the programs that don't work. Sure, it's going to destroy the labor unions that have kept our kids behind other developing nations, but that wouldn't be a bad thing.

But what do I know? I went to public school.

Posted by Macabee at July 17, 2006 04:00 PM | TrackBack