No political solution

Today's Washington Post editorial is highly critical of the District's public school system. There is a hint of desperation in the words.

The news out of the school system is simply awful. A report requested earlier in the year by then-Superintendent Paul L. Vance brands the system's instructional program as "incoherent," with no accountability and a haphazard approach to teaching that has produced "abysmal results." At the same time the nonprofit D.C.-based Council of the Great City Schools was rendering that harsh judgment about the instructional program, the National Assessment of Educational Progress released student scores that, according to Post staff writer Valerie Strauss, placed D.C. student performance at or near the bottom of every measurable category except one (white fourth-graders). If that weren't enough, last week we learned that Acting Superintendent Elfreda W. Massie hired an assistant superintendent to oversee the system's high schools only to accept his resignation after learning he had been dismissed from a previous job in North Carolina for alleged financial irregularities. Oh, yes, and the District's inspector general, at the request of the U.S. attorney's office and the school system, is now looking into whether departing school superintendent Vance improperly awarded pay raises and bonuses to two top aides. We hesitate to say it can't get any worse than this, because somehow it always does. But this catalogue of ills is bad enough.

Yet they offer the same old solution.

The mayor and council must become engaged, and fast.

No. The best thing that could happen is for the mayor and council to become completely disengaged, along with everyone in the public school system. Rather than asking for more leadership and attention from the 'authorities', they should be championing choice. The problem is the political sytem that takes money from parents without giving them a choice in where that money goes.

How much longer are they going to keep calling for more 'leadership'?

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Come, come, Jonathan. You

Come, come, Jonathan. You know the Post would never endorse a choice-based approach. Nor would the District's authorities. We're talking about pols of the lowest kind here, to whom the only thing that matters is power. Their power grows out of their statutory authority, their ability to distribute favors to those who make nice to them, and the coalitions of special interests behind them, all three of which would be wounded by any diminution of the government's control over education.

I am ever more of the opinion that we will achieve educational freedom only through the decisions of parents to pull their children out of the State's schools at their own expense. Once a sufficient percentage have done so -- it might be between 50% and 70% -- the State's school system will come to be seen as irrelevant to real education, and will be allowed to wither away. But short of that, expect no real changes to anything, especially the rhetoric of politicians and their journalistic hangers-on.

I am ever more of the

I am ever more of the opinion that we will achieve educational freedom only through the decisions of parents to pull their children out of the State's schools at their own expense. Once a sufficient percentage have done so--it might be between 50% and 70%--the State's school system will come to be seen as irrelevant to real education, and will be allowed to wither away.

hate to chime in on such a defeatist note, but that won't be happening anytime soon. part of it has to do w/ sheer demographics (e.g., the formidable rise of fiscally "liberal" latinos in the southwest) but most of the problem does indeed lie w/ naked politicking. we will likely see the current pandering trend continue, w/ mr. bush espousing platitudes about "leaving no child behind" & state & local-level republican officials dutifully following in tow.

one can entertain hopes that voucher policies--even highly bastardized forms thereof--will become a part of the administration's agenda after november of '04, but that is a dim prospect & i wouldn't put much stock in at all.

One of the things I had

One of the things I had hoped when Anthony Williams came into office is that he would clean house on much of Marion Barry's legacy but that simply didn't happen. I don't think you can remove one or two folks from the School Board to solve the problem. I think they should just bite the bullet and get rid of every administrator and start over. Of course this will never happen but it is more likely than every parent pulling their child out of school.

With all the money DC public schools has perhaps they should also purchase uniforms for all the students.