OPINION: Positive Cases for School Choice Are Widespread

From The Tribune-Democrat in Pennsylvania:

If Pennsylvania’s public schools are broken, why don’t we just fix them?

Easier said than done, of course, but it’s not from a lack of trying. For decades, taxpayers, parents and politicians have surrendered to the pleas of the unions and school boards that they would deliver improved academic performance if given more time and money.

Despite Pennsylvania taxpayers spending $26 billion annually on public schools and more per student than   39 other states ($13,000 per child); and despite a decreasing student enrollment of nearly 27,000 students while adding nearly 33,000 employees since 2000, Pennsylvania public schools failed to deliver anything other than stagnating returns on that investment.

In fact, notwithstanding dramatic increases in spending and adding more personnel to “help students,” Pennsylvania’s performance on the National Assessment of Education Progress exam has remained relatively unchanged for years.

Moreover, for all of its investment in the current system, Pennsylvania can show only about half of its 11th- graders score at or above proficiency on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment reading and math exams, and ranks among the worst performing states in SAT college entrance exams.

Why have we failed?

To answer that question, it is useful to take a step backward and examine the nature of the various reforms that have been tried. All reforms designed to improve the quality of education fall into three categories: Those dealing with rules, those involving resources, and those concerned with incentives.

Rules-based reforms include such things as extending school days and the school year, changing teacher certification and school accreditation requirements, imposing national and state testing, enacting stricter dress codes, and the like.

Research has shown that these reforms, while causing marginal improvements, have failed to reverse a large-scale decline in education. While additional rules are a politically expedient and popular means of addressing a problem, they have little or no correlation with improved academic achievement.

Another popular means of attempting to improve public education is through resource-based reforms. They include such measures as increased funding, new textbooks, wiring schools for Internet access, renovating or updating school facilities, reducing class sizes (more teachers per pupil) and other measures that require greater financial resources.

But if more rules and more resources equal better education, we certainly have not seen the results in Pennsylvania.

Read more: http://tribune-democrat.com/editorials/x1227164009/School-choice-equals-better-academic-performance