New Zealand transformed its failing school system by instituting choice, says Maurice McTigue, a former Member of Parliament, in Imprimis. Before the change, New Zealand had been spending more on education with worse results. Consultants reported that 70 percent of education spending was going to administration.
Once we heard this, we immediately eliminated all of the Boards of Education in the country. Every single school came under the control of a board of trustees elected by the parents of the children at that school, and by nobody else. We gave schools a block of money based on the number of students that went to them, with no strings attached. At the same time, we told the parents that they had an absolute right to choose where their children would go to school. It is absolutely obnoxious to me that anybody would tell parents that they must send their children to a bad school. We converted 4,500 schools to this new system all on the same day.
Under the new system, parents could spend their education dollars at a public or privately owned school.
Again, everybody predicted that there would be a major exodus of students from the public to the private schools, because the private schools showed an academic advantage of 14 to 15 percent. It didn’t happen, however, because the differential between schools disappeared in about 18-24 months. Why? Because all of a sudden teachers realized that if they lost their students, they would lose their funding; and if they lost their funding, they would lose their jobs.
At the beginning of the change, 85 percent of students went to public schools; that dipped to 84 percent after one year, then rose to 87 percent three years later. New Zealnd students, who’d been “14 or 15 percent below our international peers” in educational attainment now are 14 or 15 percent above, writes McTigue.
Thanks to Bart Ingles for spotting this.