Friday, August 19, 2011

Freeing Schools From Federal Interference

Dennis Byrne suggests a few radical ideas in this fine Chicago Tribune column. But they are, in fact, quite good ideas that would save a bunch of money, reduce needless (even counter-productive) bureaucracy and genuinely improve education.

The ideas? Get rid of standardized tests. Get rid of federal interference in local schools. Get rid of all the special studies, committees and strangling regulations.

Hey, as long as we're dreaming, let's go ahead and get rid of the whole bloated Department of Education!

...There are 5,000 federal bureaucrats laboring in the Department of Education, who, in addition to crafting other pedagogical alchemy, are engaged in rattling local schools fearful of losing federal funding because their student test scores fall short of an arbitrary standard. Here's a better idea: If the federal government must have 5,000 people doing something about education, assign them all to lend a hand in classrooms — assuming that they wouldn't do more damage there than they already do from afar...

What to do?

Stop wasting money by creating ever more utopian formulas and enforcement schemes. Assume teachers are competent and dedicated and that principals are smart and capable enough to spot and get rid of teachers who aren't. As naive as that might seem, it surely beats the results we have obtained from the increasingly centralized system that barks at the schoolhouse door today.

The answer, of course, is to let teachers and schools fail or succeed on their own. The bad ones don't need someone from Washington to point out what already is apparent. Remove federal and state straitjackets that kill creativity and snuff dedication. This means school choice and vouchers — ideas loathed by the bureaucrats and labor unions that use their power to preserve a failed system for their own benefit. Count on them to continue to leverage their power with the cudgel of ever more laws, regulations and rules that preserve — no, actually increase — their power. It will take nothing less than a revolution by fed-up Americans to break the hold that this cartel has on our children.