Jay Greene

"I'm very agnostic about what form choice must take."

Jay Greene is the author of several studies demonstrating that more choice in education leads to better outcomes. A professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, Greene is the author of Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools—and Why It Isn't So (Rowman & Littlefield). For a video version of the interview, go to reason.tv/video/show/jay-greene-interview.

reason: What is at the very top of your education reform list? 

Jay Greene: My highest priority is expanding school choice. But I'm very agnostic about what form that choice must take. I think there are lots of different ways of expanding the number and quality of choices that parents have.

reason: So you want tax credits, vouchers, charter schools, magnet schools.

Greene: To me, which form it takes is mostly a matter of political conven-ience. I think there are some forms of choice that are likely to be more educationally effective, more likely to be more equitably available, and so I have my preferences. But I just want to do whatever's politically feasible for expanding the choices. Not only so that the parents have more options, but also so that people working in the school system have more meaningful accountability for results. If people don't like it, they leave. 

(Interview continues after video.)


reason: What are the big benefits of school choice?

Greene: It allows people to get the type of education they need for them. We're not all the same. We don't all have the same goals for what our education should be. Choice allows us to customize.

The second big benefit is that choice and competition help improve average quality and hold down costs. And both of those are badly needed as well.

reason: What are the big obstacles to expanding the palette of school choice? 

Greene: I actually think that we're making huge progress. If we look at what intellectual opinion was among elites 20, 30 years ago, it was that parents were just bad choosers. They just didn't know what a good education was, and it was the role of elites to usher people into the right schools that did the right things for them. So even when there was choice, like magnet schools 30 years ago, these were schools that were structured entirely to produce a composition that elites wanted.

In the last 20, 30 years it has now become a widely shared view among elites in both parties that parents ought to have some say over where their children go to school and that competition for children is making schools better. We now have a huge number of charter schools when 20 years ago we had none. We have more than two dozen tax credit and voucher programs around the country, still with a relatively small number of students.

reason: What are the big obstacles to broadening school choice? 

Greene: The biggest obstacle is the teachers union and their political allies. They would be hurt by expanded choice and competition because it would put pressure on them to improve quality and it would shrink resources available to them for their own benefit. 

reason: What's the political calculus to turn it around to where parents and taxpayers are more in charge? 

Greene: The calculus is that every victory is permanent and every defeat is temporary, so that when choice is expanded it's very hard to take it away from people. Once they have it they like it and want to fight to keep it. The advantage that the unions have is they're well organized and highly interested in preventing new choice programs, and potential future beneficiaries of those choice programs don't know who they are, aren't organized, and can't advocate for them. So it takes an entrepreneur, a policy entrepreneur, to introduce a new choice program, to engage in the fight necessary to expand it. But once it's made available, it tends to create its own political support and its own demand for additional choices. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    At the combined elementary and secondary level in 2006, the United States spent $10,267 per student, which was 41 percent higher than the OECD average of $7,283.

    http://nces.ed.gov/programs/co.....ator38.asp

    Funny how the same people who are so worried about how the US alledgedly spends more and gets less for healthcare never seem to worry about the US spending more and getting less for edcuation.

  • Warty||

    If it wasn't for a teacher, you couldn't read this, you monster. Do you hate children or something? Vote yes for the school levy!

  • ||

    You have no idea the kind of monster I am Warty. My only redeeming quality is I like kitties.

  • Bee Tagger||

    My only redeeming quality is I like kitties.

    Really depends on how much you like them and how you show it.

  • JoshINHB||

    My only redeeming quality is I like kitties.

    Roasted or fried?

  • Comment||

    *smoked*

  • ||

    Kitten tartar is GRRRRREAT!

  • W. C. Fields||

    I love children especially if they are cooked properly.

  • Rich||

    spending more and getting less for edcuation

    Hey, *my* elementary school didn't teach how to put on a condom! That's applied knowledge for modern living, unlike all that hooty-tooty reading & math stuff I had to suffer through.

  • Dave Letterman||

    Well, we should still double it.

  • Derp||

    Man, that interview made me so mad. Thanks for reminding me.

  • Realist||

    Letterman is wrong about most things.

  • Nomic||

    Where I live, school choice amounts to the smartest kids having a choice of which high school they want to go to in the county. Each school has a "theme" for this group. One is liberal arts oriented, one is technology, one is performing arts, so on.
    I would much prefer vouchers, but this is what we got.

  • Jerry||

    But those Western European style school systems don't work either, because you still have a centralized government doling out the money, and parents have only little say on how that money gets spend in schools.

  • nanda||

    The US is a failed empire that is doomed to extinction. It is the most evil nation that ever existed and deserves to be eliminated. Improving education and enabling more people, especially blacks, to become successful in the ordinary bourgeious manner just prolongs the death agony and promotes false consciousness. They will imagine they are better off if they get more money and a higher standard of living and know more things. They will be deluded into thinking life is better. Better to deny them education, let them become unhappy and rebellious which will lead to them rioting and disrupting and ultimately overthrowing the state.

    That is how liberals think. They even apply the theory to their own kids. And if you believe that last one, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

  • JohnD||

    Nanda, I was all set to unload on you until I got to the end of your message.

    I agree that is how most liberals thing. I know a few people like that.

  • NomadWright||

    Useless generalization of an entire group of people to no beneficial end.

  • ||

    As a teacher in a public charter school, a great example of school choice working in a city full of failing schools, I agree with a lot of what this guy has to say. The idea of the number one obstacle to broadening school choice being "unions and their political allies" is complete nonsense though. Our school is full of union members who value school choice as much as they value the union, and I have yet to meet a teacher in this city who is not strongly for the rise of charters, magnets, and other options that give parents more say in where they go. Feel however you want about unions, but "the number one obstacle"? REALLY? Like we're all gathered in a dark room somewhere plotting to destroy school choice. Get over it.

  • Mr Whipple©®™||

    You've never been to NJ, have you?

  • DJF||

    You say that the individual teachers support school choice, but what does the union say about it? And does school choice include the choice of going to a non-union school?

  • ||

    Actually, the Baltimore teacher's union is pretty supportive of school choice. We had partnerships with Edison in 2 schools for years, and only dropped one of them after multiple years of declining performance. The other Edison school is doing fine, fully supported by the evil, horrible, choice-destroying union. We also just signed a 10-year agreement to continue our partnership with KIPP (two city schools), although those greedy teachers did selfishly demand that they reduce the extended day from 9.5 hours to 9 hours and take a pay increase of 20% for all the extended time (9 hour school day, parent access via cell phone until 9 PM every night). Not to mention the 20 or so new charter school applications being considered to add to the 34 charter schools that have started in the past decade, and the 4 new middle/high school choice schools endorsed by both the union and the C.E.O. of the school board. I would say that yes, there is considerable support from the Teacher's Union for charters and choice.

  • ||

    “We heard our members loud and clear. KIPP teachers stated they love their school and their students and want to keep working at KIPP. This agreement satisfies everyone and allows the success of our students and our school system to continue,” stated Marietta English, President, Baltimore Teachers Union.

  • Highway||

    How about support for schools that don't want union teachers?

  • ||

    Union support for non-union schools is a different issue from the idea that unions are actively against school choice. Obviously it isn't in the union's best interest to support non-union schools, so they would most likely be against it. Good luck finding any kind of a competent principal, board, and staff who are willing to do the work that comes with creating a charter or magnet school without being union supporters. The good teachers, the ones that really care and put in the extra hours and design the charters schools and go work in the worst areas because they want to make a difference, most of them are going to be in favor of change and choice, and most of them are also going to be in favor of the union. Like I said, however you want to feel about the unions, go with it. My only issue concerns this myth that teacher's unions are this big scary boogey man and are "THE NUMBER ONE OBSTACLE AGAINST SCHOOL CHOICE". That is an absurd, one-dimensional, unrealistic, and manipulative idea. Unions and school choice are not mutually exclusive.

  • JohnD||

    You need to lay off the kool-aid. It sounds like you are starting to beleive the drivel you are writing.

  • ||

    "when you don't agree with an argument, and you can't properly back up your opinion, always go with an insult."

  • ||

    oh, and you spelled "believe" wrong...you must have had a non-union teacher!

  • ||

    And "Kool-Aid" is a proper noun, you should capitalize it.

  • Highway||

    So basically, it's "Play ball with the union, and we'll be your buddy." Let's not mention the ugly alternative, that if you don't want to kowtow to the union, and meet every demand that they make, that they do turn into "The number one obstacle" against your school.

    Sure, it's couched in terms like 'level playing field' (meaning "let's drag everyone down into the mud"), or 'fairness', but it all comes down to paying tribute. Of course the unions won't have any trouble with new schools that want to 'partner' with them. Expanding their membership? Not making other union members and institutions look bad? All for that.

    But that's not much of a 'choice', is it.

  • ConfederalRepublicBy2030||

    1) Public servants shouldn't have any right to organize unions. Period.

    2) Eliminate the state's influence and regulation of educational establishments.

    3) Summarily execute the mayors of New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles, just for the fuck of it.

  • ||

    "The good teachers, the ones that really care and put in the extra hours...and most of them are also going to be in favor of the union."

    This is something I have never understood, and would like your perspective on. It seems like the union is constantly going against the interests of good teachers, and only supporting measures that benefit the "below average" teachers. Having zero control over increasing my compensation , based on my effectiveness, would drive me crazy. The same goes with prioritizing teachers based on seniority. I don't care how long someone has been in the job, anyone who excels, when compared to their peers, should be deemed as the most valuable.

    It just doesn't make sense to me. Then again, maybe that's why I never wanted to become a teacher.

  • ||

    So that's your "choice"? Parent's get to choose between whatever the union offers them?

    That's like being allowed the choice to go to any McDonalds you want.

  • ||

    Get over it.

    Let them eat dirt! Those who hold themselves as our betters do not care that we are not happy with them. We are the serfs, the teachers parasites believe themselves as nobility. It usually doesn't end well for them and with any luck that will happen here in the US too.

  • Arcaster||

    I don't think he was referring to the union members, but it's impossible to argue that union bosses haven't taken a strong political stand against school choice. Just look at what happened in D.C.

  • Dturtles||

    This is just the first statement I could find from NEA, by doing a google seach for nea school choice, didn't even bother with aft or local unions.

    http://www.nea.org/home/19133.htm

  • JohnD||

    You may be for it but it looks to me like the unions are against it.

  • ||

    [ Our school is full of union members who value school choice as much as they value the union,..]

    And yet you call yourselves professionals as you sit on your hands and do...nothing??

  • ||

    "Our school is full of union members who value school choice as much as they value the union"

    As a teacher, you may not be against choice, but your union leadership is. I have many friends who are teachers, and just like you, they support choice. Unfortunately, if this sentiment is not shared by the major teachers unions, then the views of actual teachers become secondary.

    Short of ending teachers unions all together, I feel education in this country would be much better off, if teachers broke away from these massive, national unions, and only organized at the local level. That way, maybe voices like yours would carry more weight.

  • ||

    'but "the number one obstacle"? REALLY? Like we're all gathered in a dark room somewhere plotting to destroy school choice. Get over it.'

    Yes, REALLY. If not the teachers union, who is fighting the hardest against all the "choice" you say you're in favor of?

    And I note, vouchers - real choice - isn't even on your list.

    Finally, it doesn't take central planning and conscious coordination for people to fulfill a purpose. Just as a market doesn't require central planners to do good, unions don't require dark room central planning to do evil.

    And yes, I said evil. The destruction of the hopes and dreams of generations of children perpetrated by the teacher's unions and their political allies is one of the greatest evils in the country.

    Face it - the teacher's unions are busy destroying the lives of millions of children daily. Get over it.

  • ||

    [As a teacher in a public charter school, a great example of school choice working in a city full of failing schools,...]

    Keep in mind, a charter school is simply a public school sans a union. An improvement to be sure, but the lure vouchers promise is truly free market capitalist education.

  • DJF||

    “”The biggest obstacle is the teachers union and their political allies. “”

    The only thing that I have ever heard the teacher unions demand to improve schools involves increasing pay and decreasing work. Now, I have no problem with a union asking for more pay and less work, that is its job, but I don’t see how those two things improve schools as measured by better educated students.

  • ||

    It is a great scheme. Education is the only industry I know where featherbedding is calling quality improvement.

  • Rich||

    I'll mention here a little proposal of mine: During the high school graduation ceremony, each student is given a random newspaper paragraph to read aloud to the crowd.

  • ||

    I hope there will also be large supplies of tar and feathers.....

  • Montani Semper Liberi||

    Public schools are the clearest example that "progressives" don't really give a damn about the poor. The system is so obviously broken. The "progressive" mantra was that public education was needed to make sure children whose parents couldn't afford private school could get a quality education, but look at where the best public schools are today. Without fail, they are in upper middle class areas where the vast majority of families could afford a private education. The public schools in the districts where they are supposedly needed the most, the urban ghettos and backwoods hollows, are almost always the worst. Yet the "progressives" constantly fight reform at every opportunity. They have only one idea--spend more money. They would rather see poor children trapped in terrible schools than admit they were wrong.

  • ||

    "Yet the "progressives" constantly fight reform at every opportunity."

    Translation: Progressives aren't very progressive when it comes to public education. In fact, they are down right conservative.

  • ||

    Best newspaper URL ever:

    (read the link text)

    http://www.independent.co.uk/l.....69573.html

  • ||

    That's great, you should repost that in the morning links.

  • ||

    It occurs to me that setting up private charities to supply voucher-like grants to parents who want to get their children out of public schools would bypass much of what Teachers' Unions could do to oppose school choice. Further, it might well pay dividends in the fight for true vouchers, as it would lead by example.

    If I had the kind of money needed to set something like this up (I don't, I'm struggling to stay in my house, which I own outright), I would do it myself.

  • cynical||

    So, I was just thinking (per the commitment article the other day). What if there was a school where the parents had to front some money for tuition, but kids could then get some of it back based on their performance? Might help kick some parents in the ass to get serious about their kids education. Of course, there might be all kinds of other perverse incentives attached, it's just a thought.

  • some guy||

    Good idea. Some schools have tried paying kids for better grades. I don't know if the verdict is out yet on whether it works.

    The perverse incentives could be controlled by having kids' performance graded by a 'neutral' third party in a setting where neither the parents nor the teachers could influence things.

  • ||

    Sounds to me like that dude really does have it going on. Wow.

    www.total-privacy.int.tc

  • ||

    Good luck finding any kind of a competent principal, board, and staff who are willing to do the work that comes with creating a charter or magnet school without being union supporters.

    Fuck you, parasite.

  • Highway||

    "Oh, hey, this looks like a nice building you're putting up here. Although, it looks to me like yer gonna need some concrete. It'd be a shame if that concrete was bad. Now, we do our best as the owners of the one concrete plant to make sure everything's ok, but unfortunately, that one concrete plant around here sometimes turns out some bad concrete. What *you* need is a good inspector for that. How about you hire my brother here to be your inspector, and he'll insure you don't get no bad concrete. He'll only need to show up once every couple weeks to check, but you better pay him for every day just in case."

  • ||

    You forgot to mention the "certification" threat.

  • ||

    I find it amusing that the GOP claims to be for school choice, yet fails to give any attention to Indiana's reform proposal.

    They were also silent, when the Dems in the Indiana state legislature fled the state, and held the legislative session hostage over this very issue.

    The righteous righties must have declared a truce on education reform.

  • ConfederalRepublicBy2030||

    1) Public servants shouldn't have any right to organize unions. Period.

    2) Eliminate the state's influence and regulation of educational establishments.

    3) Summarily execute the mayors of New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles, just for the fuck of it.

  • ||

    " The calculus is that every victory is permanent and every defeat is temporary, so that when choice is expanded it's very hard to take it away from people."

    Didn't they lose the DC voucher program?

  • ||

    It got reinstated as a rider in the 2011 Budget that just passed. And the parents were super pissed when the superintendent went back and got the voucher program shitcanned.

  • ||

    Good news.

    But notice it really isn't a one way street. With the Dems (and teacher's unions) fully in power, it was canned, and it didn't matter how much people were pissed. The Dems lose an election, and it's back.

  • ||

    Detroit Public Schools are a great example why parents should be given choice. Of course, they should be given choice regardless, it's their kid's future.

    http://sunshinereview.org/inde.....,_Michigan

    http://www.intellectualtakeout.....er-schools

  • ||

    I am REALLY tired of hearing about school choice HURTING teachers. Charter schools open a wealth of opportunities for entrepreneurs. Better teachers who are willing and able to take advantage of opportunities can improve themselves AND the education of a number of students.
    All the "systems" in the universe cannot improve the education of a single student. We do not teach systems. We teach students. We do not teach public schools, we do not teach private schools, we do not teach charter schools, we do not teach online schools. We teach students.

  • aman||

    NiceHot

  • منتديات العراق||

    thank you man

  • دردشة عراقية||

    thanx

  • قبلة الوداع||

    ThaNkS u man

  • Air Jordan Ol School||

    That's cool!

  • DTS Converter||

    Thank you.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement