Dr. Matt Ladner, one of the foremost scholars on Education Savings Accounts (ESA) writes in The Way of the Future: “The productivity of American education has collapsed over the past four decades. The students who start with the least in life suffer the most under the status quo.”
Sadly, despite new programs and an abundance of good intentions, the status quo in South Carolina has changed very little over the last few decades. Across the nation, the story is the same: more education spending simply hasn’t delivered results for students. As Dr. Ladner explains:
“It is not an exaggeration to say that the education policies pursued since the 1960s largely reflect the policy preferences of the teachers’ unions. What have the unions done with their political power? Above all else, they have increased public school spending. If schools today were as efficient as those in 1970 were, though, lawmakers could reduce total state spending and / or tax burdens by 25%.
Of course that increase would be tolerable if the quality of education grew accordingly. Sadly, that has not been the case…The National Assessment of Education Progress show largely flat scores since the early 1970s”
Status quo education policies mirror the perpetual belief that schools and districts are underfunded even though their funding has increased over and over again with too little to show for it. Status quo education policies – whether wittingly or not – promote the false idea that all children learn the same way and that every community is the same. Greenville isn’t Allendale and Walterboro isn’t Rock Hill.
Of course, none of this is to say that some schools are not really underfunded or that the average teacher pay is what it should be. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t reasonable to point out that more of the same education policies that got us here in the first place might not be the best strategy going forward.
How can we better align inputs (resources) with outcomes (real student achievement) within the traditional system? How can we harness technology in new and better ways through ideas like Course Access? How can we support, expand and replicate high-quality public charter schools? How can we offer students and parents more flexible choices like expanding our Exceptional SC Scholarships or unleashing the power of Education Savings Accounts?
All of these are steps South Carolina can take to transform the status quo. Each of these ideas represent new opportunities for more and more students to reach their full potential…which is why we will keep fighting to make them a reality in the Palmetto State!