Wednesday, February 1, 2012

State's largest newspaper favors competition in education

How can we improve education? That's the question The Oklahoman asks today in an excellent house editorial ("Small tuition-assistance steps in Oklahoma too big a jump for some in education").
One approach is increasing the options for nontraditional learning such as a private education funded at least partly with taxpayer dollars. This is the approach the OCPA favors. Its liberal counterpart urges instead more taxpayer funding of traditional public schools, particularly in high-poverty school districts.

The problem that many taxpayers have with this suggestion is that it hasn't paid off. Greater funding doesn't automatically lead to better results in the classroom. This is why the appeal remains strong to try something different, such as vouchers for private school tuition.

The counter-argument is that vouchers weaken public schools. Evidence for this argument is lacking. On the contrary, the evidence suggests that traditional schools aren't improving fast enough and that substantial funding increases won't help. ...

Oklahoma has taken baby steps toward school choice with tuition assistance for special-needs students and a tax credit for those who donate to a fund that doles out private school scholarships to eligible families. Even these small steps are giant leaps for the defenders of the status quo. Costly legal challenges are mounted. The school establishment doesn't like competition.

We do. Taxpayer-funded tuition assistance for private universities hasn't destroyed public universities. It wouldn't destroy public schools. It would likely have the opposite effect.

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