"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Scott Walker's "Budget" and Education Reform

Buried within the two-year budget Scott Walker proposed yesterday for Wisconsin are a number of truly radical (and from my perspective, great) proposals on education in Milwaukee.   For those of you who are uninitiated or from out of state (or out of the country), Milwaukee's city public schools are an ongoing scandal, and have been for a long time -- as of the fall of 2009, the last year for which data are available, only 40% of Milwaukee public school 10th graders were proficient in reading, and only 29% were proficient in math.  

Walker's "budget" proposal wants to do more than just balance the state budget.   It also:

• Phases out income requirements and eliminate enrollment cap for Milwaukee school choice program, and make schools across county eligible.

Theoretically, this would permit all of the MPS students to opt out of the system, get a voucher, and go to public or private schools elsewhere in Milwaukee County.

• Removes the requirement that MPS teachers reside in Milwaukee.

This would do much to attract better teachers to MPS schools.

• Repeals the limit on the numbers of students who could use the state's open enrollment system to attend a virtual charter school in another district.

Truly radical and forward-looking, this proposal would allow parents to opt out of school-based education entirely and effectively home school their children using state monies.

• Requires that charter school teachers need only a bachelor's degree to teach, rather than a teacher's license.

Very important to break the monopoly power of the abysmal education departments that produce licensed teachers.   It has always struck me as absurd that, for instance, I have a Ph.D in English from Duke University, but couldn't be permitted to teach high school or middle school English in a public school, even if I were to volunteer my time.   Or that a top chemistry or physics grad student couldn't be permitted to teach a high school science class without having to take education classes that frankly aren't challenging academically.  The teacher's license (much like membership in the bar) is clearly a protectionist measure to make barriers to entering the teaching profession higher, and thus to keep out the competition for those jobs.

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