A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Private Public Cadillac Honda Education

Many parents view private schools as a viable alternative to public schools until they consider footing the bill. Perhaps certain politicians spin the issue as private schools being "the answer," because publicly bashing public schools is politically convenient, but most parents tend to be rational in deciding what choice is best for their child. Politics, by its very nature, skews perceptions into black and white, winner take all decisions. Practically speaking, however, all most parents want is what is best for their child. In other words, the delivery vehicle is not the primary concern of parents; what matters is the destination.

If many parents perceive private equals better, despite a lack of legal constraints, or more broadly, a lack of accountability, a few different things might explain that perception of private equals better outside of political fear mongering. For people of great wealth and status, who have the financial means to provide their children a classical liberal education, in the tradition of Cardinal John Henry Newman, abandoning their tax dollar investment in education is just another write-off -- the very wealthy are accustomed to driving Cadillacs, and many rather enjoy the privilege of having their children get the Cadillac equivalent for education. For the average American parent, living paycheck to paycheck, the abandoning of their tax dollar investment is not a realistic option -- most send their children to public schools because a Cadillac is not a viable option; most are satisfied with a Honda. For the very poor, public schools have failed to change the status of the majority, whereas opportunities provided by private schools, through charity, have led a few especially bright stars out of the ghetto to Hollywood, the NBA, and even the highest offices of the land.

A lack of legal restraints in special education only matters if parents have no other viable options. In the case of special education, wealthy parents with children who have a disability can easily afford the Cadillac equivalent for special education. Private special education schools tend to be extremely expensive, and problems with a lack of legal constraints surface in only the most extreme cases. The market place has a naturally corrective accountability feature for bad private schools. Wealthy parents can simply send their child to a better school, much like ending a lease or cancelling a contract. Extremely wealthy parents, since they have complete control over their own educational dollars, are ultimately the drivers of their children's education.

For the average parent with a child who has a disability, the Cadillac is not an option, so they go to public schools. Most are happy with their Hondas. If the average  or poor American parent who gets an educational "lemon," however, there are few viable options outside public schools. Since parents have no direct control over their educational dollars, since they cannot simply cancel the contract and take their educational dollars elsewhere, the average or poor American family is stuck with the education they are provided. Fortunately, the quality of which is protected by federal law and accountability features. However, the social costs of public education are spiraling out of control, which suggests that the federal framework for education needs an overhaul.