As you know, cutting a dime of Federal Spending is damned near impossible. The people who benefit from that spending scream like they're being dissected alive.
From a Friday article in FEE, I learn about how Vermont is handling towns that aren't big enough to have public schools. There are 93 towns in Vermont too small and sparsely populated for a traditional public school. In a rare display of sense, the state legislature decided to send the tax money that would be spent on public school to the parents in those towns and let them decide how to spend the money. These “tuition towns” end up setting the example for how to get education done right. To begin with, the schools are cheaper than Vermont public schools.
So how much money are we talking about? As far as income distribution, Vermont looks a lot like the national average. The per-student expenditure of $18,290 is high by national standards (only New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and DC spent more). But independent, tuition-driven schools spend $5,000 less, on average, than public schools in the area, which is near the national average. [Bold added: SiG]The secret sauce is the Free Market. Those schools catering to the Tuition Towns are under economic pressure to impress the parents; to prove they're the best place to send their children. In doing so, the schools prove they're a better place to spend the Vermont Taxpayers' money than the Vermont department of education establishment.
A variety of schools has arisen to compete for these tuition dollars. A spectrum from centuries-old academies to innovative, adaptive, and experimental programs competes for students from tuition towns, just as for the children of independently wealthy families.
Eligibility for tuition vouchers actually increased home values in towns that closed their public schools. Outsiders were eager to move to these areas, and the closure of public schools actually made at least some people already living nearby significantly wealthier as their home values rose, according to real estate assessments.
A common argument public schools (and their unions) make is that because they have to take everyone, they can't turn out as good results as those private schools. A short example is worthwhile.
The Compass School, nestled on the New Hampshire border, enrolls 80-100 high school students from three states and a mix of demographics. Forty percent of students qualify for subsidized lunch (the school system’s proxy for poverty), and 30 percent have special learning needs.That blows the old public school pitch out the window.
Nearly any public school in the country with Compass’ student population (considered mid-poverty) would be aspiring to a 75 percent graduation rate and a 60 percent college-readiness rate. Compass has a virtually 100 percent graduation rate, and 90 percent of graduates are accepted to college. And still, Compass achieves these results with $5,500 less funding-per-pupil than the average Vermont government-run public high school.
While I know that shutting down the public schools overnight is too difficult to sell or do, this presents a really good example of how the mess could be reformed. Home schooling is still probably the best alternative, but at least as far as this goes, this compromise sounds pretty good.