by Jim Davies, 10/14/2010
October 13th was a dreadful day for children in D.C.: Michelle Rhee resigned.
She's one dynamic lady, brought in to the D.C. school district by Mayor Adrian Fenty to clean house in a deeply corrupt organization. Now, Fenty having failed to win renomination, she has left rather than waiting to be fired. She had identified non-performing schools and closed them, and had named substandard teachers and fired them, and so was well set to produce a little educational value in one of the worst districts in the country. Wherever she goes next, I wish her well.
There are three things wrong with the government school monopoly:
Ms Rhee's was one of two attempts to fix that third fault, to break the power of the NEA - the other being "Charter Schools" which leave the basic structure of government control and taxpayer funding in place, but deny teachers the power to call all the shots and allow customers some degree of choice. She was making progress, but now, as the NY Times suggested, her revolution is over. As in Orwell's Animal Farm, the pigs are back in charge of the farmyard.
Quoting a 2010 Cato Institute study by Adam Schaeffer, humorist P J O'Rourke wrote in June that the D.C. school district claimed to spend an outrageous $17,542 per student per year - but that the probable actual spend is $28,170, or two and a half times the going rate there for private schools, one of which was found good enough for a President's daughter. O'Rourke also advised visitors to that city to count our change, because of its recent graduates only "8 percent were at or above proficiency in math."
Neither Rhee's attempt nor the Charter Schools idea gets to the root of the matter and eliminates government from the scene, as advocated by the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, founded in 1994 by my friend the late Marshall Fritz and doing excellent work. When children are molded by government, they emerge with a belief in and a respect for government, and that is the whole actual purpose of the monopoly; all the rest is for show. Rhee's work, laudable though it was, did not even try to fix that. She was only trying to make the monopoly less unacceptable, to shift control back from union to government, to paint lipstick on the pig. And now even that is to be wiped off.
There is no rational alternative to a zero-government society.