When reformers discuss improving the American school system, they often focus on finances. However, providing additional funding doesn’t necessarily translate into improved student achievement. Some inner city schools that have higher per pupil expenditures still have notoriously low test scores. So addressing educational issues shouldn’t translate into spending more money. For example, teachers’ salaries at private schools are considerably lower than those of their public school counterparts, yet these private schools consistently demonstrate higher achievement levels and more of their students enter selective colleges and universities than those in the state-run schools. Why?
One reason is the very structure of these organizations. Private schools are business entities that must respond to the needs and expectations of their clientele. In other words, they must produce a high quality “product.” Any private school that doesn’t do so will quickly lose its support and close its doors. Public schools are government agencies. Thus, they lack the business culture and drive to provide a quality product or a profit.
One suggestion for improving public schools in Britain and American comes from the July 4 issue of The Economist: “Make head teachers at state schools as accountable to parents as their peers at privates schools are and give them the same freedoms, notably to sack poor teachers and pay more to good ones.” That won’t happen until someone (perhaps the American taxpayer?) can break the strangle-hold that teachers’ unions have on the American system.
In the meantime, parents who are unsatisfied with the status quo but who cannot afford to send their children to private school have several alternatives. They can home-school them; they can try to enroll them high quality charter schools, or they can supplement with after school learning centers like Handle Associates.