(Guest post by Greg Forster)
Great news! Our schools are saved.
Billionaire Eli Broad is spending $44 million to start up a new Harvard center to figure out what’s wrong with public schools.
That’s right; the first $500 billion a year we spend on K-12 education didn’t do the job, but spending another $44 million (not per year but only once) will put us over the top.
Just like that after-dinner mint in the Monty Python sketch, I guess.
Larry Summers will head the center’s board. The Wall Street Journal reports that Summers was asked whether opening the new center was a rebuke to all the other education research centers which have been doing exactly the same thing for decades and have produced no tangible improvements in education to show for it.
Summers replied: “It’s not a rebuke to any individual.”
With respect to the fine people who work at these cushy “education laboratories,” the real education laboratories are the private and charter schools taking advantage of school choice programs to experiment with new approaches to education.
Milton Friedman always used to comment that education is the only thing we still do the same way we did it 100 years ago. Innovation in education has been stifled not because we lack comfortably endowed research centers but because education is controlled by a government monopoly. He would go on to comment that the real innovation in education won’t come until school choice programs are expanded to include all students – because only with universal choice will you get a more robust market that will produce bigger innovations. And once free-market schools begin discovering better educational techniques, others can copy them. Doctors improve care by copying other doctors who devise new and better treatments – and it’s not the doctors who work for the free, government-issue providers who devise new and better treatments, but the doctors who serve the middle and upper classes and have the opportunity to make more money if they provide better treatment.
The best thing we can do for the education of the poor, Milton would conclude, is to extend school choice to the middle class. Schools for the poor can’t improve service until the education sector as a whole figures out how to improve service, and that isn’t going to happen without a universal market.