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Education "vouchers" solve the fiscal crisis, and also lead to economic recovery?

Simply open up K-12 education to the market place, with government only playing a role by financing the students with a yearly education check of $8000.

*www.usagovernmentspending.com shows American local governments spending $458.3 billion for K-12 education in 2012.
*(Sir Ken Robinson says this education system is a complete failure)
*The new education cost of $8000 education check to 50 million K-12 students is $400 billion per year
*This saves $58.3 billion
*(a $6000 check would save $158.3 billion)
*The yearly education check allows students(and their parents) to choose how, when, where, and what they learn, and also who teaches them
*The yearly education check of $8000 opens up a $400B/year market to entrepreneurs, teachers, and creatives
*($6000 check opens up a $300B/year market to entrepreneurs, teachers, and creatives)

State fiscal crisis solved, federal fiscal crisis solved, and the new education market leads America's economic recovery.

Thoughts everyone?


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    Jan 2 2013: Petar, In a level playing field where everyone does the right thing ... this would be alright. Inner city schools would be abandonded ... achieving schools flooded ... On line abused .... teaching only to the test ..... sham schools set up .... diploma mills rampant ... and many others .....

    Yep there are a ton of problems ... Textbook publishers and test writers dictate our education system ... Federal and state intervention .... Unions .... Common Core Curriculums .... tying teachers evals to students grades .... and allowing the fox to guard the hen house which stiffles any change / upgrades.

    We have accepted that life without a degree is a failed effort. The system needs to acknowledge that the trades are necessray to society. My plan for change would be to split the curriculum 1) College prep and 2) manual trades in all high school systems. This would allow students to be where they want to be and thus make teaching easier and allow for advance studies in both areas.

    Further there is a disconnect from the senior classes and the begining college courses. If I were in charge I would require Liberal Arts prior to university. Transition would be better and the Universities could address advanced courses as it should.

    Get rid of the multiple guess system and go to a application model. Just getting the answer right does not mean you can apply it in a real world situation.

    We need to address and solve the education problems. I feel the voucher system would just add to the problems. Wealthy communities would set up very private academies and excell ... all the rest would be hit and miss.

    You are quite correct that government run is the worst possiable and free market the best .... And change is needed .... we are together on much ... we just differ in how to get there.

    All the best. Bob.
    • Jan 3 2013: I agree with much of what you say about the weaknesses of the current system, but I don't believe that the free market would do any better than the federal & state governments are doing right now.

      I haven't thoroughly researched the question, but my experiences as a professor at a private university (not in the Education Department) and as a member of an elected school board for a public district here in Pennsylvania have led me to be very skeptical about the motives, the standard practices & the results associated with for-profit educational institutions (regardless of level).

      You're also right that some kinds of learning can be done more effectively and more efficiently on line than in a classroom, especially if that classroom is under the control of anything other than an intelligent, knowledgeable, and engaged teacher. Daphne Koller's TED talk about the Coursera project does a great job of explaining the possible upside of this new approach.

      However, even Koller suggests that while on-line learning is a great way to impart conventional models of facts and concepts to students, even a great web course cannot do much to advance a student's critical thinking skills. For that, we need direct mentoring in small classroom situations by intelligent, knowledgeable, & engaged college professors. And we need to make sure that college classrooms have moved away from and beyond the old model of lectures and multiple guess exams (if only because these things can now be done on a much larger scale & much more effectively on the web).

      Our current mess notwithstanding, there are good high school classrooms and good college classrooms out there even now. Parents and students need to seek those out.
      • Jan 4 2013: Jody,
        Do you think the food industry would be better if state and federal governments ran public cafeterias?

        Public schools spend ~$90,000,000 on 10,000 students.
        Let's say 10,000 children from the inner city choose a TED education that consists of watching TED videos all day. Now TED has $8000x10,000 students -- $80 million a year to meet these student's education demands. Why you the think their TED education would not be any better than what students get with current public education?
        • Jan 4 2013: While I wouldn't want the entire food industry run by government, I'm grateful for the existence of the FDA, which (in theory at least) places public health concerns ahead of the need to keep private shareholders happy. The education bureaucracies at the state & federal levels are inefficient and slow to change, but some states do better than others, & I would argue that on balance most of them (the feds included) do better than for-profit outfits like the University of Phoenix.

          I'm not at all opposed to making use of TED talks & Coursera & the web in general, but as I mentioned in my first post, you can't teach critical thinking skills by using multiple choice tests; for that, you need teachers & classrooms.

          One reason that public schools spend so much per student is that they are expected to make a good-faith effot to educate everyone, including those with learning disabilities & behavioral issues. On balance, I think this is a good thing, but special ed programs are definitely not cheap.

          Parents will always be the first & most important teachers of their children, but parents are not perfect, & some of them have badly skewed priorities. Another reason that public schools spend so much is that it costs more than $750 per year to outfit a high school football player. On balance, I think this is not a good thing, but it is absolutely true that in the average American community the the high school football team will have many more supporters than you will find for music education, for the humanities, or even for programs in the currently stylish STEM disciplines.

          The free market functions very well when intelligent & informed consumers (not shareholders) can dictate what happens by making rational choices, but if your consumer population includes too many uninformed or misguided parents, & when your real clientele is children (who by definition don't yet know what they need to know), the market will not produce the results we need.
      • Jan 4 2013: Jody,
        You did not answer my question. I will try again. Why do you think TED, using $80,000,000/yr in "voucher" money from 10,000 inner city students who selected TED as their education provider, would not do any better than the public education system in educating the 10,000 inner city students?

        Why do you think musicians are better off in public schools that spend disproportionate amounts of money on athletic programs, completely neglect music programs, and often have athletic cliques and bullies who push around "band geeks"?

        If you had musically gifted children, who loved music, and just want to play music all day... you would choose a public school for them instead of sending them to a music school?
        • Jan 4 2013: Sorry, Peter.Regarding the 1st question: many TED talks do a superb job of demonstrating both the creative & practical uses of intelligence & talent, & I accept your implied premise that most kids in public schools just don't see enough (or in some cases, any) of that. I do have reservations about the idea that kids can learn everything they need to learn simply by watching & (presumably) trying to imitate what they see.

          (I should also admit that I'm troubled by casting this as a "voucher" argument rather than a straight discussion of teaching & learning, because voucher money is collected by state & local taxing authorities & then distributed to private enterprises. Dollars that go to vouchers are taken directly from funds that otherwise would have been spent on public schools, & while money can't solve all the current problems of public education, lack of money IS one of the major problems plaguing many failing schools.)

          Regarding the 2nd question, I would argue simply that musicians, like all citizens, need a solid foundation in the arts & sciences (& perhaps especially in critical thinking skills) before they begin to specialize. I'm all in favor of magnet high schools, for the fine arts & for STEM & for skilled trades as well. But (to connect this to the previous question) I'd also argue that while you can use on-line pedagogy to teach music appreciation, you can't really teach someone to BE a musician unless you're in the room with that person.

          Regarding your last question, I would say 1st, that we did send my daughter to public school, & 2nd, that as middle-class parents we also tried to find ways & spaces for her to make the most of her brains & talent. (We have no magnet schools & no truly distinguished private schools in our area.) I think most parents want their kids to be both happy & financially secure, which means they need both to cultivate talents & to inculcate a healthy respect for the practical side of things.
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          Jan 4 2013: Some times it is just the people. In Phoenix a administrator took a failing inner city school and brought it up to excelling. She makes demands and enforces tough rules but is so inspirational that the students and parents are all in her corner. They have dress codes, hall behavior codes, classroom expectations, ect ... a story was written in the paper about a kid whos family was evicted and he could not find his homework ... he got a F for the day. He defended the system because that was the rules. With that attitude he will succeed.

          Perhaps that is some of what is missing ... disclipine and respect. Because of this these kids are becoming self reliant and can see a better future through education and self respect.

          I'm no psych but it makes sense to me at my low level.

          All the best. Bob.
      • Jan 5 2013: Jody,
        I have my doubts too about TED providing education services. It would deviate from their core competency of hosting conferences for the elite and putting the presentations online. So TED puts up their education service offer, no one signs up, the students all choose to pay the public school to continue their education or other service offers, and TED strikes out.

        If there were truly distinguished private schools in your area, would you send your children there? Would you rather have $8000/yr per child to choose any public school, any private school, or any method you see fit to educate your children?
        Do you think there would be more specialized schools if the government simply handed out $8000 to every student in your area?

        You are a professor at a private university... What about this plan:
        Let's say 15 high school students are a group, they have $120,000 cash for education, and the group was put together because they are all fascinated by 18th century British literature and theater.
        -How many people/staff/students in your department would be interested in earning $100 to lecture the high school student group for one hour every week?
        -How many would be interested in earning $1000/week by finding time to give 10 lectures?
        -How many would be able to give a public school worthy lecture on Paradise Lost?

        At $100 per hour lecture, the group could attend 1,200 lectures/discussions in a year.
        • Jan 5 2013: Petar,

          Yes; if there had been a better school (either a magnet school or a private school) available when my daughter reached high school age, I would have tried to send her there.

          However, I would still have paid my school taxes, & I would still have tried to do what I could do in my own community to advocate for better public schools. I think there's a compelling public interest in establishing some kind of base line for all future citizens of any democracy in literacy, numeracy, & critical thinking, I don't object to paying taxes in order to bring that about. It's not just about educating my own kid; it's about educating everybody's kids, at least up to a certain point, for the good of the whole community.

          In a sense, the system you're proposing is already available to high school graduates. (The subsidies here don't come in the form of vouchers, but rather in the form of state- & federally-guaranteed loan programs, which as I'm sure you know are the proximate cause for the ethically dubious recruiting practices of many colleges, universities, & trade schools.) I can understand the argument for introducing the same level of choice for high school students & their parents, but I have reservations about it, & below that level, I very quickly lose faith in the free market approach (for reasons I mentioned in earlier posts).

          Regarding the second hypothetical proposal, I'd just say no thanks. I appreciate the fact that I am able to teach classes and work on my scholarship without having to dig up my own customers for whatever it is that I have to offer. Students & their parents still seem to think that a college degree is worth pursuing & worth paying for, & as long as that's the case, I'm content to be part of that larger enterprise. I don't actually think that an academic who was seriously committed to both scholarship & teaching could make even a modest living in the way you describe.
      • Jan 8 2013: Jody, you did not answer the question...
        I think if my questions were posed in better English, you would not be skipping over the questions, so something is happening here.... I will try again.

        How many undergraduates or graduate students in your department do you feel would be interested in earning an additional $1000/week by spending 10 hours giving English literature related lectures to high school students?
    • Jan 4 2013: Bob, great comments!
      That is a good question about gaming the system. On online abuse, sham schools, diploma mills...I have to ask you: What percentage of American parents do you feel will cheat their own children out of an education?

      On average,
      -who is more likely to cheat children out of an education: their own parents or politicians?
      -who is more likely to put in sweat, blood, and tears into educating children: their own parents or politicians?
      -who is more honest: politicians or working mothers?
      -who is more trustworthy: politicians or working mothers?

      Yet Americans are entrusting politicians with $458 billion dollars a year to educate 50 million kids!? Politicians and government are already proven failures for education. Don't you think it is time to trust "we the people" and put that money into the hands of the students and parents?
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        Jan 4 2013: Thanks for the reply ... Polticians get the messy end of the stick in almost all areas. Of course there are always parents who who not fare so well either.

        Prior to Carter making the Education office a Cabnet Post ... the states ran the system and the major influence was the local school board .. who did a pretty good job because the PTA was on their case all of the time. Since then the feds and the states have legislated the schools and the system to death. Local control is all but a memory.

        Some cities have a magnet program that allows kids to go to a school that offers a "special program". One school maybe Math, another Lit, Performing Arts, science, etc .... I see some benefit to that.

        The major issue in all of our talks in the inner city schools. Most ring schools are pretty well staffed and are what we call excelling. Now that the teachers eval is dependent on the student test scores ... would you want to go to an inner city school straight out of college and have your record smashed on the first time out. If vouchers were issued I would think that inner city schools would dry up. My opinion ... the parents of inner city youth basically lose control of their kids at about 14 or so .. I know that is a giant generalization but accept the thought please. They work from 6 to 6 and the kid goes to school if they want to ... little control. Hustling drugs gets them big bucks quick. Stiff competitation.

        So lets, if you will, look at the worst case (inner city) and see if the model works there.

        By the way ... of the $458b take $80 billion away for the Dept of Ed to staff 5,000 employees in DC. Their mission statement calls for "set educational policy". Bettter be a heck of a sentence. The charts of $ per student shows that almost 50% or more is operations yet the ratio of students to staff is 20 : 1 or more. Kinda makes ya go ... huh!!!!!!

        I enjoy the respectful exchange .. thank you .... Bob.
        • Jan 5 2013: Bob,
          Yeah, another thing that makes me wonder is how the Department of Education along with a complicit American public dutiful forces Western education, standards, and culture down the throats of Native Americans. $8000 and educational choice would allow all K-12 students to pursue their own education interests.

          Inner city parents and students have an advantage of close proximity to each other.
          -20 students and parents together have $160,000
          -They put out an advertisement at $20/hr for a private tutor to teach them useful things.
          -at $20/hr they have 8,000 hours of group tutor "instruction time" before their money runs out
          -Every day a tutor of their choice drives in and teaches them.
          -Average "instructional time" for school is ~1000 hours. So they have $140,000 to spend on educational equipment. or $160/hr for 1000 hours...

          I'm not sure of the educational or economic impact illegal immigration has on K-12 schools in Phoenix. The vouchers being handed out would be going to K-12 students that are citizens
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        Jan 5 2013: Petar, I live on the edge of a major Indian Reservation in the US (Navajo) and can tell you that the natives are well educated at our expense. They all have the opportunity to go to university or trade schools. They also have a program call Johnson / O'Mally (JOM) that allows them to spend a part of the school day in traditional lore, customs, and language skills at public expense. I can promise you that there is no need for concern at they plight .. they are doing well.

        Immigration / illegals are a hugh drain on the state economy and the feds are fighting the locals who enforce the immigration laws. It is a big political battle over votes. (another conversation). I do agree, however, that the taxes are being borne by citizen to pay for education and if you are not a citizen then you should not benefit. There are laws in place to gain citizenship ... all those before followed the rules and worked to become citizens ... so should todays illegals. The really funny part is that their country (Mexico) has very strict immigration laws and if you are in the country illegally you go to prison ... but they say we must accept their people. Ironic isn't it.

        Most inner city residents are fericiously independent and loners with certain exceptions ... whereas the outer ring people tend to be a "community" ... therefore your theory may work well in one area and not another. Also there is a welfare mentality that is pervasive in the inner city that will be a problem in the resolution.

        Not a easy nut to crack .... I am thinking of a "way" but not quite there .... I'll get back to you.

        All the best. Bob.
        • Jan 8 2013: Bob, your location (Joseph City, AZ?) is excellent because it provides a small population rural scenario where buying power is considerably less. So I think examining handing out $8000 of education money to all K-12 students citizens of Joseph City is a great start at solving America's education problems. The question of dependency, welfare and entitlement mentality is a tough one.

          -Tax-paid public schooling instill beliefs that services should be "freely" provided by government(and managed and operate by government too), and that access to these free services is the "right" that people are entitled to?
          -$8000 of "free" money from the government instills beliefs that government should hand out money directly to citizens for all aspects of life?
          -Parents become more involved with education because now they have more responsibility and money?
          -Students become more responsible because they have money to choose themselves instead of being pulled by the state?
          -Too many people choose homeschooling and resource hogging athletic programs collapse?

          What are your thoughts on giving every K-12 student citizen in Joseph City $8000 for their education and allowing them to do whatever they want with it?

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