The Way of the Future: Unbundling K-12

December 3, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

We have a new contender in the education reform race: Michigan! Very interesting proposal.

Michigan has an iron-clad constitutional prohibition on public money going to private schools, so it is hilarious to see some of the usual suspects in the above article calling this a “voucher proposal.” Nevertheless, this raises some interesting questions. Is a student taking a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (public institution) class online through EdX (a private 501 c3) taking attending a “private school?”

What if they are taking a Harvard course through EdX? What about a University of Michigan course through Coursera?

Luckily it doesn’t much matter because they are free and don’t require much in the way of public funding.  It would be highly desirable to allow students to use public money to pay for the $89 testing fee in order to receive college credit, especially for children of limited means, but not necessary. Presumably Michigan is going to develop their own system of end of course exams in order for purposes of transparency and accountability. College credit will be a bonus.

Note that while the usual conspiracy theorists have already donned their tin-foil hats about evil profit driven plots that for-profit providers while they will in fact be in direct competition with brand names like Stanford and Princeton who will be providing courses free of charge.

Let me also note that rather than providing $2500 per semester of early graduation, it would make more sense to put all education funding into an Education Savings Account and let the providers compete on both the basis of quality and cost.  A greatly reformatted system of in-person schooling customizing their offerings to meet individual needs would result. All providers would need to compete on the basis of quality and cost, updating the 19th Century Prussian factory model of schooling in the process.

This however is simply an optimizing detail-congratulations to Governor Rick Synder and his team of visionaries for reimagining K-12 education for the 21st Century.

HT: Adam Emerson.