I know it may seem counter intuitive to many. How can we fix the Dougherty County School System by doing the very thing many argue would destroy the system? Well, it’s not particularly difficult, but we first must understand a couple of things.
The first thing to keep in mind is that a lot of what you’ve heard about concepts like school choice are less than accurate. There are a lot of ways for school choice to work, and most opponents are generally digging in as a way to protect their own turf.
Second, there are multiple ways for school choice to work. Many people automatically think “vouchers”, and that is a particularly popular notion in many segments of our society. However, it’s also not the only one either.
The third thing to remember is that few of these option are viable for Dougherty County residents to undertake on their own. Almost all require action by the general assembly.
So, now that I’ve gone through all of that, what am I really talking about?
School choice is, basically, the ability for parents to determine their child’s educational path. Most parents want better for their kids than they have. A parent with a solid middle class income hopes their child has a solid upper class income. It’s the natural state of being.
By utilizing this mechanism, and using free market principles, school choice essentially involves using market forces to push out bad schools and teachers, while at the same time rewarding good schools.
Take, for example, a community that has a good voucher program. Any parent who wants it can obtain a voucher for their child to attend private school. This may only be limited to the total amount the system spends per child, and that’s fine.
Using such things as a free market, schools that are performing well will see a minimal drop in attendance due to fewer parents removing their kids in search of greener pastures. Schools that are performing poorly will naturally see a higher turnover as more and more parents pull their kids out of a sinking ship.
Private schools, as a result, will not only see an increase in enrollment, but there are likely to be many more private schools that open to meet the demand for quality education. With a stipulation that the schools be accredited, that shouldn’t be a problem.
These market forces will, basically, shut down poor schools and reward quality schools. If incentives are in place for a school system to keep as many students, like say the system losing funding for every student they lose to private education, and now they have to step up and perform. Period.
Another option available is something called “backpacking” funds. The term really just means attaching funding to an individual student for their entire education. If a system allots $4,000 per student, then that $4,000 follows the student. Then, you open up public schools for parents to select where their kids are going.
The result, again a result of market forces, is that fewer kids will be attending poor schools while the better schools will see an increased enrollment. The better schools will also see an increase in funding since that $4,000 per student is guaranteed.
As schools within the system begin to compete in an effort to attract students, the real winner becomes the kids who will receive a much better education. Quality teachers, of which I know many, will be winners as well. After all, such a measure will trim the dead weight off their profession. Dead weight like teachers who cheat, can’t control their own classrooms, don’t understand the subjects they are teaching, all of which gives a black eye to the entire teaching profession.
Don’t get me wrong, it seems clear that Dr. Joshua Murfree has to go. Assistant superintendent Kenneth Goseer needs to pack his belongings into a cardboard box at the same time. However, with a system as screwed up as ours is, it’ll take a lot more than just two people hitting the road to fix the Dougherty County School System.