Friday, January 21, 2005

Discuss school choice tomorrow, or, my show prep 

I am making an offer of this space to you to give questions for my discussion on the Northern Alliance Radio Network with Craig Westover, columnist for the PioneerPress, and Elizabeth Mische, executive director of Partnership for Choice in Education. The discussion will be during the second hour, at 1pm Central Time. You can listen in from here.

It's instructive to look at PCE's FAQ. I am especially interested in good, tough questions about school choice and vouchers. Let me briefly outline where I want to go with the discussion, and then ask you to put comments in the comment box for this post. I will read them on the air tomorrow as time allows. If you want your name on the air, let me know.

Here are my first three questions for tomorrow:
  1. As PCE says on its homepage, Minnesota already has a great tradition for choice in education -- public school open enrollment; charter schools; post-secondary education options (for HS students to get college classes instead of HS classes); and low income families can get tax credits and subsidized loans. Aren't these enough? What's the benefit of expanding school choice from here? (Follow-up questions are likely to come from the mediocre grade Minnesota's education tax credit program received the Friedman Foundation.)
  2. This appears to be an issue that crosses party lines. According to Craig, Elizabeth is a liberal Democrat who supports school choice. The Democratic Leadership Council (the New Democrats that started Bill Clinton's national career) says they too support at least public school choice. But they also say we "shouldn't support increased choice without corresponding increases in public accountability," which sounds an awful lot like the fear of some Republicans that vouchers could lead to a loss of control for private schools. Where are you on this issue? Do vouchers in fact invite the fox into the henhouse?
  3. Craig wrote early this month in the newspaper that
    A major rationale for school choice, and a requirement for its ultimate justification, is that rather than harm government schools, it creates an environment conducive to strengthening the public education subsystem. School choice offers an opportunity to break the monopoly that hinders improvement of government schools.
    Friday the Wall Street Journal editorialized (subscribers only) about a letter campaign by the American Federation of Teachers hurled at the Journal after they printed an editorial critical of teacher's unions by Terry Moe of the Hoover Institution. We certainly know of other places where teachers unions locally have held enormous power over political decisions. Do you think unions hold too much power over the public schol system? Do you think vouchers would reform teachers unions, or would they lead to the end of unionism in education?
I have a few more I'll keep under my hat; we can't let Craig and Elizabeth have too much of a heads up. I look forward to your questions as well.