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Thursday, December 14, 2006

To Improve Failing Schools, Utilize Free-Market Principles

As readers of this blog will know, one issue that we at Americans for Prosperity have emphasized is the need for free market reforms in education. On Sunday, Del. Chris Saxman, had an op-ed on free market education reforms for Petersburg run in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Since I'm sure he wouldn't post it here on the blog on his own, we wanted to make sure you had the chance to see it.

Listen to Customers:
To Improve Failing Schools, Utilize Free-Market Principles
CHRIS SAXMAN
TIMES-DISPATCH GUEST COLUMNIST
Dec 10, 2006

Staunton. One of the things that I have learned in my time in business is that if you think there is a problem with your products or services, do one very important thing: Ask your customers what the problem is. They will let you know everything you need to change.

Recently, the Virginia Department of Education dispatched another administrator to Petersburg to try to solve the problems of the Petersburg school system. Personally, I think the entire department ought to be relocated to Petersburg and have all its employees send their children to the public schools there. Then they might just get a handle on what the problem is and what they should to do solve it. Until then, one more bureaucrat from Richmond will serve only as a symbolic gesture that something needs to be done.

Too often in government, managers and leaders assume they know what the problem is and, therefore, know what the answer is. Since most core government services are virtual or actual monopolies, there really is no incentive to make the kinds of changes that are necessary because, after all, most customers of those services have no choice as to who is providing the services. Do you really think that cell phones and BlackBerry-type devices would be as prolific today were it not for the deregulation of AT&T (Ma Bell)? The answer is obviously no.

As a former teacher who has visited school systems not just in Virginia but also in suburban Chicago and inner-city Milwaukee, I can honestly tell you that there is no one way to educate every child. No matter how many individualized educational programs (IEPs) one has, sometimes even the best and brightest kids need a different environment in order to learn.

Read the full article online here.

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