An independent commission yesterday proposed dramatic changes that would shake up American public education in an effort to make the nation more competitive globally. The recommendations include authorizing school districts to pay companies to run all their schools; enrolling many students in college after the 10th grade; and paying teachers about $100,000 annually.
There goes three radical and expensive suggestions with no proven track record of success. Who could have possibly issued such a report:
The 170-page report, "Tough Choices or Tough Times," is the result of a year-long study by the panel, which includes New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; Joel I. Klein, chancellor of the New York City public schools; former Michigan governor John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers; Roderick R. Paige, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Education; Marc H. Morial, president and chief executive of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans; and D.C. School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey. It was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Lumina Foundation for Education.
A rogue's gallery of know-nothings who don't know how to educate children funded by a foundation that has taken nothing but missteps in its short history. What, no small school initiative?
The most controversial recommendations include empowering school districts to sign contracts with companies and teachers to run the schools -- which would replace schools' administrative structures with something similar to that in charter schools -- and forcing teachers to give up pensions in exchange for large pay increases.
Most companies don't know how to run schools effectively. Neither do teachers. Many charters are just as bad as similarly situated public schools, sometimes worse. And, paying teachers more just means we'll be spending more for the same results. As "radical" as these suggestions are, they are not so radical as to have identified and reformed the underlying problems in education.
Districts, they said, should relinquish control to the most highly qualified contractors, who would be rewarded for successfully running schools -- or fired if student performance languishes.
Today, we can fire administrators for poor performance, so what's the diff?
But Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association, said hiring contractors to run the schools would create "a huge new set of enterprises that we have no evidence will work." Moreover, it would negate the administrative economies of scale provided by a central office and "add a great deal of costs to a school," she said. "We've seen that to an extent with charter schools."
But, if the plan would eliminate some of the self-interested nitwits, like Anne L. Bryant, who burden the system and have no incentive or responsibility to achieve results, it may not be all bad. To even suggest that there are administrative economies of scale in our current system demonstrates why people like this need to go.
Tucker said the recommendations would take 15 years to implement, but he predicted that they would result "in what will plausibly be the best national public school system in the world."
I will bet anyone any amount of money that if all these recommendations are placed into effect and everything else held constant that in fifteen years we'll have a more expensive schools system that performs just as poorly as the current one.