Michelle Rhee Doesn't Want to Eliminate Public Schools Entirely


rheeson magazine?

A Tea Party leader and voucher advocate was quoted in the Newark Star-Ledger on the future of public schools, saying what school reformers are never supposed to say out loud:

"We think public schools should go away," says Teri Adams, the head of the Independence Hall Tea Party and a leading advocate—both in New Jersey and Pennsylvania—of passage of school voucher bills….

They should "go away," she says, because "they are hurting our children."

Former D.C. school head (and Reason cartoon cover girl) Michelle Rhee felt compelled to respond on the blog of her new organization, Students First:

Those who look at the system as it is and argue that we should do away with it are…wrong. The right to a free public education is not only essential to our future success, but a cornerstone of the American creed that anyone who works hard can make it here—because they have the fair shot at a quality, state-funded education.

Her response generated this headline:

Michelle Rhee says push to do away with public schools is wrong.

Ah well. Nobody's perfect.

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  1. Doing away with compulsory schooling would be a good start.

    1. The world has enough underwear models. School is a proper function of the government

      1. Access to education maybe, but not public schools as we know them. As we know them, they are a failure of government.

      2. “Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins … Society is in every state a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”

        —1—1—If the government isn’t doing it, nobody is/it can’t be done

        Society =/= government

        1. Actually, I consider society in every state a terrible curse on us as well; but screw the government anyway. People are inherently evil, and when you put them in power, their evil surpasses petty cruelty to their fellow man and becomes downright demonic. The less influence and power other people have over me, the better.

      3. No. Having the government mold the minds of the people that are supposed to hold in check during their formative years is a recipe for tyranny. Schooling is a proper function of parenting, and if parents enlist professional help great, and if the government provides money to poor parents so they can do the same, well, there are worse things they can do with it.

  2. I guess if we didn’t all hate the children, we’d see why public schools were necessary.

  3. As a Korean, I’ve been intrigued by why some Koreans insist on using “Rhee” to romanize “Yi”. At least “Lee” comes somewhat close.

    ??? – that’s a strange name.

    1. In japanese, the rhee and lee sounds are considered the same.

  4. Let’s start with explanations as to why it’s at all essential or necessary, and follow that up with some proof of legitimacy for governmental control of eduation — because there isn’t any.

  5. Well, Rhee is engaged to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson these days. I don’t think you can oppose public education and be the significant other of a Sacramento politician.

  6. At least she’s headed in the right direction (less state involvement in education). If we can get to the point where money follows students wherever they go, that’s like 60% of the problem right there.

    Politically speaking, I don’t see how we could go from free school to no free school without going to vouchers in-between.

    1. There’s a HUGE difference between free school and government provided school.

      The poor get free food, and government provided schools.

  7. I would like to see government schools eliminated, but I’ve got to admit that America has a long tradition of the government supporting schools. According to “The United State in the Making”, published in 1948, Congress passed a land ordinance in 1785 to divide the Northwest Territory into townships. The ordinance set aside one lot in each township “for the support of schools”.

    1. “The ordinance set aside one lot in each township “for the support of schools”.”

      Define “support”. It could mean raising a tobacco crop and then using the tax money it generates to buy pencils.

      1. The textbook I cited said the land was “for the support of schools”. It did not give more details.

    2. how a “long tradition” have anything to do with anything?

      1. It was just some related information I learned this week. Previously, I thought the push for government schools started with the Progressive Era. Now I know that it goes back much farther.

        1. The push for government run public schools started with Horance Mann and his common school approach. That was around 1796.

  8. The right to a free public education

    I don’t think “right” means what she thinks it means.

    1. Also, she states that it’s “free”. So the materials for the schools are donated totally voluntarily by suppliers, the schools are constructed voluntarily by workers, and the teachers there don’t get paid.

      OH NO, wait, I’m sorry, she just confused “free” with “paid for by taxes”. What a silly mistake.

  9. There’s a useful distinction to be made between the public funding of education and the public administration of education.

    One can be in favor of both, neither, or one but not the other.

    IOW, “Public schools going away” can mean a number of different things.

    1. +1

      I think there’s a place for the government to fund education, as it establishes a framework for the operation of the free market. My objection is with government administering it.

  10. …that anyone who works hard can make it here…

    If that were true, rent-seeking would be an obsolete relic of the mercantilist age, not alive and well and proudly touted as “Stimulus.”

    …they have the fair shot at a quality, state-funded education…

    Yeah, because the kid who got a Chemistry degree from Land Grant U. is going to get the same shot as the kid who got a Queer Studies degree from Harvard.

  11. Rhee’s response sounds like she would be open to eliminating public (i.e government run) schools if there were still a guarantee of public funding for education for every child. Which sounds pretty good to me. I would prefer that things be better organized in such a way that schools would also be paid for but he private sector, but that’s not going to happen.

  12. “The right to a free public education is not only essential to our future success,

    Which means there will be no success, as there is no such thing as a “free education,” nor is education a right. Education is a personal choice; you’re free to educate yourself, to seek education, but not to receive one. If you’re a dunce, how can becoming a Rhodes Scholar be a matter of right? How? Would your limited brain be committing an infringement on your right to be brilliantly educated?

    but a cornerstone of the American creed that anyone who works hard can make it here

    I don’t understand, Michele – how can FREE education be part of the creed of success by working hard? Isn’t that a contradiction?

  13. In the unlikely future in which 1984-world is averted, people will regard the notion of entrusting children to a state bureaucracy for “education” the same as they would now regard turning them over to pornographers.

    1. ie, eagerly?

      1. Point taken, but I doubt that the two-legged sheep to whom you refer would agree with the characterization of the TSA as “pornographers”.

  14. I would happy with decentralizing them from the federal and state heads. This would give local people more power over them.

    1. There is nothing “unlibertarian” about local public schools.There sure as Hell is with compulsory attendance.

  15. Nothing will bring out the Lefty penchant for sanctimonious outrage more than the mere suggestion that public schools suck. Advocate the elimination of public schools and Lefties literally break down – frothing mouth, scarlet face, wild eyed stammering, etc.

  16. Public education is really nice in suburbs where families could have afforded to send their kids to a private school in the first place. It is quite harmful in cities, where kids are the most vulnerable. The problem with any kind of public funding of schools, whether it be through property taxes or vouchers, is the problem of economic calculation. How much education should there really be? Nobody really knows, but given the massive amount of money spent on education, probably way too much. My wife was supposed to teach algebra to inner city kids who were not functionally literate, while half the teacher in the school literally did no teaching. If you were buddies with the scheduling people, you could actually get classes completely full of students who they know cut class every day, meaning you got paid for sitting in an empty room. All that massive overspending did absolutely nothing for those kid who actually cared to show up.

    Public spending in any form completely distorts education. Professional educators trumpet the need for more spending because, of course, everyone *needs* education. This story is completely backwards. The compassionate thing to do is to stop telling people what they “need” to be successful, and open the economic opportunities so that people will seek education when it is appropriate for them to do so based on the opportunities that are available. This market approach will lower the cost of education and increase innovation, and best direct resources to people who are most able to take advantage of them.

    Liberals get hung up on the notion making poor people “pay” for something is somehow mean-spirited or unfair. The economic reality is that government welfare payments simply move resources around into areas where people happen to politically well connected. It automatically creates over-consumption in one area, and deprives people of resources in areas that they actually want. Governments are the ultimate mean-spirited organization, allowing a few people to benefit at the expense of all. Markets require people to always consider the needs of others to be successful.

    1. People keep on saying the free market will cure all. Why should schooling be part of the free market? That’s the issue that seems to set libertarians and everyone else on education. Most people don’t think the ‘free market’ belongs in Education.

      1. Re: 4chan,

        People keep on saying the free market will cure all.

        Whoever says that totally misunderstands what the market is. A free market solves scarcity problems, not “all” problems.

        Why should schooling be part of the free market?

        Because it is based on exchanges, that is why. If education was infused by The Grace Of God, it would not be subject to economic choice, like breathing.

        Most people don’t think the ‘free market’ belongs in Education.

        Most people don’t think… at all.

      2. Schooling should be part of the free market because the people who today can’t afford private schooling are forced to attend terrible schools – spend some time in an inner city school and you will see why. The problems will not be solved by simply shoveling more money into them.

        In general when something is funded out of coercively obtained taxes, there is no real incentive to improve quality or lower cost. When something is funded by the voluntary interactions with clients in an atmosphere of free competition, there is every incentive to improve quality and lower cost.

        Will free markets instantly solve problems in education? Of course not. The claim is just that when coercive measures are removed, resources will start to align themselves in a way that does more good than what the central planners can hope to accomplish.

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