The Warwick Beacon: Rhode Island Education Needs an Overhaul, Not a Shifting of Costs
Hurrah for the community newspaper!
Unlike the news department of the Projo, which uncritically builds into its coverage the assumption that a new “funding formula” can somehow magically solve Rhode Island’s education problems, the editorial board of the Warwick Beacon takes a more questioning view…
Problems in Rhode Island’s educational system indicate the state doesn’t need to raise revenues to fund schools or shift the costs from one place to another; it needs to overhaul its educational system.Vouchers aren’t the only possible reform that could be used to improve the allocation of resources and spur educational reform in Rhode Island. Other possibilities include cross-district choice, removing the state-created barriers to charter schools and tax-credits for school tuition.
According to the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, the state spends the ninth highest amount of money on per pupil expenditures in the nation, while its students score well below the mean average on various standardized tests, such as the SAT.
So it appears the state’s education problems don’t stem from a lack of revenue, but from a system that is faulty at its core. After all, a company with a flawed business model wouldn’t succeed even if $1 trillion were invested in it. The same is true of a flawed school system.
To reform schools, the state should start by looking at teacher contracts, which lack incentives for effectiveness. Teachers are paid according to the same scale, regardless of performance….The same is true of the schools themselves.
But there is a solution to that problem.
Milton Friedman, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976, coined the idea of “school vouchers” in the 1950s. Friedman’s idea was to give parents a voucher, equal to the price of educating a student in a public school, and allow the parent to use it at the school of their choice.
The notion would result in schools being forced to compete with one another for students. The high performing schools would thrive, as more students would flock to them, while the poor performing schools would be forced to close, as students would avoid them.
The vouchers system is especially appealing to lower income parents. A parent of a student who normally wouldn’t be able to afford to send their child to a private school would be allowed to use the voucher.
Any of these programs would be superior to a centrally planned “funding formula” which, as it would be implemented in RI, would quickly become a program of raising taxes on communities with good school districts as a means of subsidizing underperforming municipal bureaucracies in other communities.