Getting Serious about Educating Our Kids
The Columbia Daily Tribune has a story on a new proposal for tax credits to direct more money toward failing public schools:
The bill would allow Missouri’s 13 unaccredited or partially accredited school districts to apply for grants to implement proven intervention programs such as early childhood education or tutoring programs. Corporations would receive tax credits on 50 percent of their contributions to that fund, with a cap of $20 million in state tax credits offered annually.
Baker, D-Columbia, said her proposal is an alternative to tuition tax credit bills that would use tax credits to set up scholarship funds for students transferring out of struggling school districts.
“I say, let’s put our money toward those types of interventions that really work,” Baker told members of the Missouri Parent Teachers Association Thursday night at Smithton Middle School. “We all acknowledge we have a problem, and we all want to address the problem, but I want to address the problem within public schools.”
What’s revealing about this program is who the money would go to. The tuition tax credit bill puts money in the hands of parents, and gives them the freedom to use the money to send their kids to the school of their choice. That puts parents in the drivers’ seat: if a public school isn’t meeting the needs of a particular family, parents have the power to send their kids to a new school that will do a better job.
In contrast, notice how Rep. Baker’s legislation leaves the public school bureaucracy in charge. Those “proven intervention programs” will be implemented by the same bureaucrats who have repeatedly failed to educate the children entrusted to their care. Why we should have any confidence that another $40 million will be more successful than the billions of dollars already spent is not explained.
But maybe Baker is right that these “proven intervention programs” are effective at helping low income kids. What’s really weird about her proposal is that she considers it an “alternative” to tuition tax credits. Given the serious problems in our schools, why should we limit ourselves to one reform at a time? If Baker were sincerely interested in helping kids, rather than scoring cheap political points, she would support trying both strategies. That’s what Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein did in 2003 when she brokered a compromise that provided more money for private school vouchers, charter schools, and traditional public schools in the District of Columbia. Maybe you think school choice won’t work, but given the high stakes, shouldn’t we at least give it a try?