The Agony of American Education
Thanks for another great article on school choice (The Agony of American Education, April). In the 80s I spent a lot of time in Edmonton with Michael Strembitsky, who introduced decentralized management to Edmonton. I took his model, revised it, and implanted it in the Prince William County Public Schools, Virginia, in 1988. I believe it was the first comprehensive school-based management system in the U.S. I wrote the book School Based Management: A Detailed Guide for Successful Implementation and gave seminars across the country to help introduce this style of management.
In working with school districts around the nation, I learned there were a number of problems with this approach. School-based management is still under the control of state regulations and local school board policies designed for centralized control. Federal intrusion has added another layer of bureaucracy. Those educrats are unwilling (and often unable) to give up their power.
Furthermore, even with training, most principals are not by nature prepared to run a school independently. They are administrators who simply carry out the orders of the central office. Principals do not generally have an entrepreneurial character.
Most important, I found that the unions were infiltrating the site committees to take them over and stop any real progress toward putting education in the hands of the main stakeholders, students and parents. I have a confidential memo from the National Education Association describing how concerned it was in the early days of school-based management. The monopoly unions are against any real change in government schools that might enhance student learning if such change disturbs the status quo.
School-based management is better than central dictatorship, but its a far cry from real choice without double taxation.
Richard G. Neal
My local newspaper constantly runs chirpy feature stories about public school parents but never mentions the great sacrifices made by private school parents and the huge subsidies they are coerced to give to public schools. The Agony of American Education was just as one-sided in its praise of two public-school parents in San Francisco.
In my hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, a husband and wife with two children in Catholic school will pay private tuition of approximately $130,000 over 12 years, plus another $190,000 in public school taxes over their adult lives. Thats a big price to pay to exercise their constitutional right of religious freedom. Worse, if they dare to question the fairness of this or, heaven forbid, ask for a rebate of their public school taxes for the years their children attend private school, they are called mean-spirited, greedy, and selfish by public school parents who drive Hummers and live in million-dollar homes. I hope that in a future story on K12 education, you will give as much space to subsidy payers as you did to subsidy takers.
Craig J. Cantoni
The Mobility Myth
Thank you for Alison Wellners great article on The Mobility Myth (April). One more point is the telecommuting revolution and the ability of millions of workers to live where they want to live for the duration of their natural lives. I am part of the 2.7 percent of American households that moved across state lines in 2004. Weempty nesters, age 60, married 38 yearsmoved from Northern Virginia to Lopez Island, Washington, where I do the same work (editing financial newsletters and research reports) via the Internet. We intend to live here the rest of our lives.
Given a choice, most people like to stay put, and we love our new small-town community and big-city connections (via DSL technology). We also tend to leave high-tax or rising-tax states like Virginia to live in no-income-tax states like Washington. States had best treat their high-income taxpayers wellthere are 49 other choices.
Lopez Island, WA