Reason Calls BS on K-12 Public School Abuses! LA, Vegas, DC! Jan 19, 20, 21

In three great events, Nick Gillespie & Lisa Snell show why public schools will always fail - and how to fix K-12 education once and for all.


Reason Foundation's Director of Education Policy Lisa Snell and I will be hosting events this week in Los Angeles (Tuesday, January 19), Las Vegas (Wednesday, January 20), and Washington, D.C. (Thursday, January 21). 

 Each of these events will explain what's wrong with traditional public schools, why more money and resources will not address those failings, and how to fix a system that fails the vast majority of students who pass through it.

The heart of the problem is that traditional public schools are locked into a centuries-old model that, to greater and lesser degrees, treats all kids as essentially identical inputs that will be transformed into a desired, essentially identical output after 13 years of schooling. Think of it: Our schools still adhere to an agricultural schedule that even farmers don't use any more. The result isn't simply a waste of time and resources. It's a morally horrifying waste of human potential. "Education is how people fulfill their humanity," says school reformer Lisa Graham Keegan.

In virtually every other part of our lives over the past 45 or so years, we've experienced a shift to mass personalization where our specific, individualized needs and desires are tended to. Shop online at Amazon and you're nearly overwhelmed by a proliferation of choices for all sorts of goods. Go to a Starbucks and they'll make any sort of coffee concoction you can think of—and they'll give you free samples of stuff you didn't even know was possible. Walk through the breakfast aisle of your grocery store and check out three-dozen varieties of Pop Tarts alone. Just about everywhere in our lives there is more choice—except for K-12 education.

Wander through stories about K-12 education and you're more likely to stumble across tales of teachers spending millions of tax dollars on plastic surgery, administrators maintaining inventories of vacant buildings, and schools cheating on achievement tests.

The public school system, secure in a virtual monopoly and guaranteed funding stream because of political and taxing powers, has been slow to join the customization revolution and move past the practices of an industrial-era capitalism focused on creating massive amounts of identical products. This model, which served its purpose, is particularly devastating for children growing up in lower-income families, who generally lack the money to exercise school choice by moving into the "right" town or school district, much less pay for increasingly expensive private schools. The result is a system that is constantly shouting hosannas to democracy, class-mixing, and income mobility while replicating the existing class structure and serving the interests of teachers, realtors, politicians, and other powers that be.

It doesn't have to be this way. As Lisa Snell has shown in a wide-ranging and influential body of work, tying school funding to a specific student—so-called backpack funding because money stays with the kid wherever he or she goes—and other forms of school choice such as charters open up possibilities for education unthinkable to generations of parents and taxpayers who experience public education as a non-responsive bureaucracy.

Indeed, since being introduced in the 1990s, publicly funded charter schools have exploded in number (over 6,000 exist) and popularity (about 5 millions students choose them) for the simple reason they cannot take students (and their funding) for granted. At its best, varieties of school choice give all students (and their parents) the market power to match their interests and needs to a school that can actually serve them.

Each of the three events in LA, Vegas, and DC will feature a mix or prepared remarks, audience participation, and a wide-ranging Q&A session. Plus an open bar and light food.

These events are free and open to the public but you must RSVP either at Reason's Facebook page or to Mary Toledo.

1) Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Los Angeles

Reason Foundation HQ

5737 Mesmer Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90230


Open bar and food truck

Valet Parking

Please RSVP to Mary Toledo at or 310-391-2245 by January 15, 2016. 

2) Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Las Vegas

Barrel Room, Rio Hotel

3700 W. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV 89103


Open bar and appetizers

Please RSVP to Mary Toledo at or 310-391-2245 by January 18, 2016. 

3) Thursday, January 21, 2016

Washington, DC


1301 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20005


Open bar and appetizers

Please RSVP to Mary Toledo at or 310-391-2245 by January 18, 2016. 

Watch Reason TV's documentary "Why Government Money Can't Fix Poverty," which looks at how Camden, New Jersey, one of the poorest cities in America and home to a terrible school system, is experimenting with school choice as a way to help its students.


NEXT: Taxpayers Beware: The Rams are Returning to Los Angeles

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  1. I wonder if this stuff ever does anything other than preach to the choir. I’m a member of that choir… but I don’t think it is winning any converts. Maybe I’m wrong. Also, can the Broncos and Steelers both lose?

    1. The choir also needs preaching to. Can I get an “AMEN”!

      1. The American left is the most socialist group of pols anywhere. They could care less about children or education; they just want the money for their group. They don’t like freedom or choice because it allows each of us to do things of which they don’t approve. Briefly, they’d like a authoritarian control so they can create the perfect world.

    2. Unfortunately it’s hard to preach to the non-choir when the majority of the media outlets are in the tank for state control of pretty much everything.

    3. Fuck the converts. Fuck them with a stick, my friend.

  2. Dang, I came here to read the comments from August of 2014 about why this was being posted so far in advance of the event.

  3. School choice is the one to win.

  4. Now, see, if the HSR were already running between my region and L.A., I might be able to take it and attend your Los Angeles event. But, as things are, the transit time is too long (even by air, when you consider all the hassle and delay attendant to air travel in our TSA-afflicted world). So I hope you will at least post videos of the presentations at some point. I am sorry to have to miss out on the networking and the nosh. Now, if you bring this road show to San Francisco or (even better!) San Jose, I might be able to attend, and you might find very receptive audiences for your message. Best wishes for success of the events.

  5. OT: Anyone watching the Dim Debate?

    1. About 30 seconds worth then I put HBO’s airing of The Godfather back on.

      1. Bernie’s class warfare is enough to make shoot my TV.

    2. “Anyone watching the Dim Debate?”

      So Saturday night isn’t TV wasteland enough, they sched one for Sunday night? Is Shrill asleep?

  6. Dumbledore is not going to like that very much.

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