For the last three years or so I’ve gotten bombarded by both sides of the Common Core issue. The Hayride is more or less the conservative website in the state (and as an aside, I’m not bragging when I say that; it’s actually more of a complaint because we need a robust conservative blogosphere in this state if we’re going to get actual conservative governance out of the politicians we elect), and since Common Core is an issue which has set otherwise allies at each other’s throats I’m supposed to have a position here at the site.
But I couldn’t care less about Common Core. I really couldn’t. For a whole bunch of reasons.
First, what Common Core is supposed to be is a set of standards in math and reading which, if those standards are met, should make kids better at math and reading. Of course, there is no guarantee the standards will be met. We already have standards for math and reading and kids in public schools stink on ice at both.
Second, it’s not supposed to be a federal takeover of education. But it looks like it’s turning into that. The thing is, the federalization of education is a trend that predates and is far larger in scale than just Common Core. The feds don’t need Common Core to take over; they were encroaching on state and local control of education ever since Jimmy Carter created the Department of Education in the late 1970’s.
Third, Common Core isn’t supposed to be a curriculum. Most of the educational abuse pawned off on Common Core doesn’t really have anything to do with Common Core; in fact, the problem is a lot bigger than that. You could get rid of Common Core tomorrow and they’d still be denying public school kids any semblance of an education in American history or civics, developing character in the younger generation or doing an even remotely credible job of creating citizens literate in Western culture – because the people who run education in this country are, with exceptions, all too often either cultural Marxists or blithering imbeciles.
What I want is a lot more radical than bringing in Common Core or eliminating Common Core. I want a total rethinking of education in this country. I’m not even all that interested in the current concept of a school; frankly, the stuff being done by homeschoolers to leverage technology and new methods to educate kids is a larger source of optimism than anything you see in public education. Even charter schools, which I think can be pretty good stuff, are still schools.
Understand that our model of public education, brought to us by the early progressives, came from Prussia in the mid-1800’s. The construct of a school as a collection of classrooms where uncomfortable desks are arranged in neat rows and columns and students collected by age cohorts are required to sit quietly and be lectured to for hours and hours on end was a Prussian invention, and the Prussians concocted it because they were trying to train a generation of kids to staff up an army capable of conquering the rest of Germany.
Early progressives in America thought everything about Germany was just swell, and they brought over as much 19th-century German innovation as they could – the majority of which was poison; a fact which became clear when the Germans started two wars which destroyed Europe and nearly wiped out all the Jews on that continent.
But the Prussian model of public education served us reasonably well as a country for a while. It doesn’t anymore, for a quite simple reason – to run a school the way the Prussians designed it with any degree of success you’ve got to have rigid, iron discipline, including corporal punishment where necessary. We don’t do rigid discipline or corporal punishment, and so our system isn’t capable of forcing knowledge into the heads of school kids the way it used to be.
So we need a model that meets the needs of a 21st century population, and we know that government isn’t capable of the kind of experimentation that will find it for us.
And that’s why I couldn’t care less about Common Core but this, I will talk about until the cows come home…
On Tuesday night, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval signed into law the nation’s first universal school-choice program. That in and of itself is groundbreaking: The state has created an option open to every single public-school student. Even better, this option improves upon the traditional voucher model, coming in the form of an education savings account (ESA) that parents control and can use to fully customize their children’s education.
As of next year, parents in Nevada can have 90 percent (100 percent for children with special needs and children from low-income families) of the funds that would have been spent on their child in their public school deposited into a restricted-use spending account. That amounts to between $5,100 and $5,700 annually, according to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Those funds are deposited quarterly onto a debit card, which parents can use to pay for a variety of education-related services and products — things such as private-school tuition, online learning, special-education services and therapies, books, tutors, and dual-enrollment college courses. It’s an à la carte education, and the menu of options will be as hearty as the supply-side response — which, as it is whenever markets replace monopolies, is likely to be robust.
Notably, families can roll over unused funds from year to year, a feature that makes this approach particularly attractive. It is the only choice model to date that puts downward pressure on prices. Parents consider not only the quality of education service they receive, but the cost, since they can save unused funds for future education expenses.
Accountability is infused throughout the ESA option. Funding is distributed into the accounts quarterly, and parents provide receipts for expenditures to the state. In the event there is a misuse of funds, the subsequent quarter’s distribution can be withheld and used to rectify it. Students must also take a national norm-referenced test in math and reading, a light touch that doesn’t dictate students take a uniform state test.
Give me this, and Common Core no longer matters. This is what the future of education looks like, or should.
And yes, you might well have a complicated menu of options as a parent. You might need to hire an educational consultant to help you navigate the best course for your kid. Et voila! We’ve created an entire industry of professionals dedicated to helping the market serve the educational needs of parents, and an industry of people whose professional interests are tied tightly to holding educational institutions and products accountable.
The Nevada plan is fabulous. We should have it in all 50 states, immediately.