Public Education Does not Mean Government Schools


Continuing to add to Private/Public debate…This SECOND essay was published by our local newspaper education blog on the topic of meeting with the Minister of Education.  The issue arose, again, limiting funds to private schools and giving them to public schools.


BIG Difference between Public Education and Government Schools

Public education is a public good.  Everyone benefits from an educated public.  While many protest high taxes, most agree that, at least, education is one outcome they expect from giving up some of their income. 

That does not mean a public good has to be a government commodity, a virtual monopoly at 90% market penetration, delivered by public employees.

Non-government education is now being delivered by many other means, – home education, independent schools, online learning, correspondence, tutoring agencies, etc. – all expanding methods.

That is why I welcome the innovative idea from Jerry Clarkson who posted a new plan. He says “The province should get out of the education business…Instead of funding schools…” provide an education card, like the health cards we now have.  Let the consumer find the best options and teachers would bill the financing agency, the government. 

This idea strikes me as being eminently sensible, since the education reform literature points out that the most effective schools are often those organized and led by teachers themselves.  Think of all the innovations that would emerge from others as well. 

The education dollar would more directly reach the child and not be creamed-off by various administrators, school boards and other infrastructure mechanisms.  Accountability and transparency would have to be upfront as competition would require full disclosure to attract customers.

Clarkson computes a figure of $9054 per full time student.  Another figure we’ve seen for this term in BC is $8323.  Whatever the amount, this is plenty to fund good schools or other opportunities to obtain an educated citizenry. 

Hey, Mr. Clarkson is not unique or alone in this idea.

Though we’ve often heard about choices being provided through vouchers, tuition tax credits or scholarships, and though the charter school movement is growing steadily in other parts of the world, BC is stuck with our old industrial era model of delivery – central planning, industrial-type trade unions, distant managers, heavy-duty quality-control testing, and on, and on.  This system depends on a captive audience.

No, Jerry (sounds like he’s an educator himself) is on to an idea which has successfully been practiced in Sweden (a socialist country) for over 15 years now.  Their free schools paid by vouchers are still state schools, but with freedom beyond belief.  Now, David Cameron, leader of Britain’s Conservative opposition is all for Free Schools too, and would bring them in should he get elected in the expected spring election.  He would go a step further than the Swedes.  He would privatize much of the school system and legislatively enable Free Schools.  See The Economist:

Speaking to a recent convention Mr. Cameron said: “Why is our society broken? Because government got too big, did too much and undermined responsibility.”

Margaret MacDiarmid’s office which signs off most correspondence with this rejoinder:  “The Ministry is always considering innovative ideas that can help improve student achievement in BC schools.” should actively look into these alternatives.   Certainly, all the ills that befall big government and big ministries are here and now.  Let’s loosen up, release the money to the intended subjects, stand aside a bit, and watch achievement and satisfaction soar, eh?

(by Tunya Audain, 091011, comment to blog, Report Card, by Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun education reporter on story:  “Christy Clark has a go at the new education minister”, 091009)


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