School competition helps children succeed

Kelley Williams-Bolar made national headlines after being convicted for lying about her residency to get her two daughters into a better school district. She was sentenced to five years in prison. The sentence was reduced and she served her nine days in jail last week. The Akron, Ohio mother of two was herself just 12 credit hours away from becoming an accredited teacher. 

While not ignoring or dismissing the facts of the case of falsified records and the legal questions of culpability, this case highlights a bigger issue in education – the role of parents in their children’s education. How much control should parents have over their own children’s education? 


Race to the top takes away parental control

Last week in the State of the Union message, the President said that the responsibility for the education of children begins “in our homes and communities.” He is right about that. It is a self-evident fact that parents are the shepherds of their children’s upbringing, and that they have the first and most influence on their children.

He is also right, in a sense, that schools and teachers share in the responsibility for the education of children. They share in that responsibility in that parents choose them to teach certain things to their children.


Celebrating National School Choice Week

We are in the midst of National School Choice Week – January 23rd to 29th – which is being celebrated across the nation. It has been exciting to see so many events being held and so many people attending and speaking out in support of a quality education for all children. 

It’s been an incredible week here in the District for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The OSP provides children from low-income families the necessary option of enrolling their children in D.C. private schools. Currently the program is serving about 1000 children and is in danger of being phased out over the next two years. The SOAR Act, introduced January 26 in the Senate by Senator Joe Lieberman and the House by Speaker John Boehner, would reauthorize OSP for five years, allow new low-income students to enter the program, increase the scholarship amounts to approximately two-thirds of the public school per pupil amount, and continue a rigorous program evaluation.   


Sweden a model for American school choice options

In 1993, Sweden introduced a system of school choice and vouchers, inspired by the ideas of American economists Milton and Rose Friedman. Even though the system was just as controversial then as any U.S. voucher proposal, the right to chose your school and bring the funding with you is today considered a natural right for families and widely accepted by all political parties.

Even Sweden’s Social Democrat party supports the system and recently closed an internal debate on for-profit schools by deciding that there is no virtue in running schools at a loss: schools should be judged on their academic performance, not financial.

The reason for the Swedish voucher reform was both philosophical and practical. The philosophical argument was that since taxpayers have agreed to share the cost for a free and good education, then why should some have to pay for it twice – first with taxes and then in private school fees?  The more practical argument came from Swedish experience with educational reforms and innovations in the 1970s that to a large degree failed. It not only caused high costs for society and generations of students who saw few improvements, but it also created an aversion against further innovations and pedagogical experiments.


Jobs and American competitiveness are top priorities (Rep. John Kline)

U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) delivered the following remarks today at the Committee's organizational meeting.

Good morning. Let me begin by welcoming the Members of the Committee, staff, and guests to our first meeting of the 112th Congress. There are many new faces in the room, and with those new faces comes a new degree of eagerness and excitement to get to work. I also am pleased to welcome back a number of members who bring invaluable experience from their years of distinguished service.  

There is an old saying about this committee that while we don’t agree on everything, we disagree without being disagreeable. It has been our tradition under both Republican and Democratic leadership. I want to thank Mr. Miller for abiding by this principle and pledge to do so as well.

Our committee has a long history of facing tough issues, and I have every reason to believe we will be challenged to do so again. More than 14 million Americans are unemployed, and employers remain reluctant to expand and hire new workers. The national debt continues to break new and alarming ground, recently exceeding $14 trillion. Far too many schools are failing to prepare students to succeed in the 21st century, and many young adults are ill-equipped and can’t afford higher education.


Securing America's competitiveness through education

Although most still consider the United States the world's lone superpower, last week's state visit of President Hu Jintao underscored China's growing role on the world stage and, just as important, magnified China's status as the United States' top economic rival.

But there's already one place where China is already beating the U.S.: the classroom. 


Investing in tomorrow's workforce

As President Obama reiterates his call for a sweeping transformation of public education policy and states make their own broad attempts to improve academic achievement, we find ourselves at a critical crossroads. The choices we make today will determine the future of the young people in whose hands we will place America’s prosperity. We have an incredible opportunity to ensure that our students receive the kind of education they’ll need to thrive in the 21st century workplace, but we must act swiftly. 


GAO bias evident in report on for-profit college industry

Last November, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) quietly issued a heavily edited and revised version of an earlier report they published that incorrectly criticized the for-profit college sector.  At the time, the GAO received significant criticism on their effort from media, education experts and other commentators. 

Critics pointed out the shoddy and unprofessional work originally put forth by the GAO, as well as the resulting damage it caused the for-profit college industry.  It was clear that many errors and misleading conclusions were retracted from the earlier study that was broadly touted. 


The best of 2010 should be a call to action for 2011

The New Year always brings about a plethora of lists. The previous year’s best and worst laid out for all the world to see. Companies vie for top billing in employee satisfaction and profits. Individuals compete head on for product innovation and revenue. Fortune, Forbes, and Fast Company all have a list. They are meant to be recognition for a job well done but they are even more valuable as a glimpse into the future. Yesterday’s success is tomorrows skill set in demand.

Inc. Magazine puts out their 30 Under 30 list, which is a look at America’s hippest young entrepreneurs and their companies. The bio’s detail how the idea came about, where they got the money, future plans and a bit about the company’s culture. It’s rather inspiring; America’s youngest, brightest, adventurous minds at work. It’s also an alarming look at the crooked, broken path from school to work.

This is the first full generation of Americans who have moved from kindergarten to college without any universal access to vocational skills. It was about sixteen years ago, after all, when school districts started moving “shop” off the main calendar and targeted those classes for certain kids. It was the time of NAFTA, Welfare to Work, School to Career, and the Workforce Investment Act. All of which played a part in encouraging community colleges to shift from technical training in favor of faster, less expensive coursework. It was when we decided that work – back-breaking, sweaty, America-building work - wasn’t good enough for our children.


For-profit regulations protect students and taxpayers

With bipartisan debt commissions unfurling proposals, newly-elected Tea Partiers headed for the Capitol, and Congress moving to keep Bush-era tax breaks, it’s clear that Washington needs to find cuts in the federal budget. With dollars more scarce, our country must rededicate itself to spending as wisely as possible.  

One area that politicians frequently pledge to attack is the unholy trinity of “waste, fraud, and abuse.” Identifying such wasteful spending is easier said than done – but not always.

The Obama administration proposed to act on two higher education programs where it was crystal clear that government money was not being spent prudently. Two industries, student loan companies and for-profit colleges, had become wealthy through federal largesse – and, to a large degree, at the expense of student and taxpayer interests.