Educational bankruptcy

Turning around bad schools will be harder than turning around Chrysler or GM, writes Checker Finn on National Review.

To be sure, schools are smaller than giant corporations, but they’re at least as burdened by employee contracts, long-term obligations, community roots, political entanglements, all manner of vendors and suppliers, and “shareholders” in the form of children and parents that depend on them. And because they are public agencies rather than private firms, there is nothing quite like “Chapter 11” through which they can be stripped of their debts and obligations, reorganized, and given a fresh start.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has no direct power to close “dropout factories” and other failing schools, Finn points out. That’s up to states and local districts.

. . .  our education system has proven as inept at intervening in failed schools as it is skilled at spotting them. Districts responsible under federal law for “reconstituting” them nearly always opt for the least intrusive option — changing the curriculum or perhaps replacing the principal rather than shutting them down and starting afresh.

As CEO of Chicago schools, Duncan was willing to close schools — and he had a lot of failing schools to close.

As Education secretary, Duncan’s levers are billions in federal “stimulus” spending, which can be used “to bribe states and districts to get serious about school reconstitution,”  the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, which could defund “slacker schools,” but probably wont, plus “sunlight and jawboning, in an effort to persuade state and local officials to take serious action — and embarrass those that falter.”

About Joanne


  1. Tom in GA says:

    One huge difference is that any and every mistake made in transforming the schools will be blown up to a catastropic level. Fixing any major systemic problem is going to require taking risks and exploring new options. The powers that be who prefer the status quo can easily twist the mistakes into PR showing that reformists “don’t care about the children and after all it’s all about the children”.

  2. tim-10-ber says:

    Isn’t that the reformers are doing now? Except in this case public education has for the past few decades been about no one but the adults? For some reason a few decades ago the tables turned. While education should be about what is best for the kids educators intentially lost the way…the question is why?

  3. Trust an education pundit like Finn to miss the obvious: the solution to the problem of over-priced, poorly-manufactured cars based on thirty year-old engineering concepts is…..competition and bankruptcy!

    Consumers vote with their dollars and the sweet deals that were negotiated by the labor monopolists back when the car manufacturers had an effective monopoly are swept away.

    So let a thousand flowers bloom where the educational monopolist’s skunk cabbage ruled and see which ones pass the sniff-test. Those that fail get plowed under.

  4. Tom in GA says:

    I find it difficult to think that most urban schools could get any worse. When kids can’t read, do basic math, or behave in a civil manner, dismissing competition seems self-serving…