Culture > Q&A

Making the grade

"Making the grade" Continued...

Issue: "Syria's pain," Sept. 8, 2012

If we reduce class size by hiring bad teachers, we make things worse. Eric Hanushek at Stanford has estimated that if you could remove the bottom 10 percent, in terms of quality, from the American elementary and secondary school teaching force, America would go from 25th to 10th in the world. That's the drag the bottom 10 percent puts on. Now the people in the 30th and 40th percentile aren't rocket scientists and maybe aren't even very bright, but they can get it done through the drills and the homework. We need to get rid of the people who get everything wrong in the classroom and demotivate the kids.

A decade ago we had two major conservative positions on fixing education. One emphasized mandatory testing. The second emphasized decentralizing mechanisms like tax credits and vouchers. The first didn't work. Is it time to take another shot at the second? Yes, decentralize as much as possible. Put the money or the voucher in the backpack of the student. Let the student go wherever the parent wants the child to go: private school, public school, religious school, homeschool. Full scale choice all the way.

Can we improve K-12 education funding by following the funding model for higher education? There are a lot of things wrong with American higher education, but choice isn't one of them. You can take a guaranteed student loan or Pell grant and study at a Baptist college your first year, a Catholic one your second, and Hindu and Jewish ones your third and fourth years. You'll be theologically confused, but you'll be entirely within the Constitution because, when it comes to federal student aid for higher education, we don't care where you take it.

That's not the case at the elementary and secondary levels. Where it's much more needed. As important as college is, kindergarten and grades 1-3 are more important, and much more formative.

Watch Marvin Olasky's complete interview with William Bennett:

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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