Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Improving Schools the Hard Way

I've spent a lot of time over the past decades trying to come up with ways to reform public schools on a broad national scale. In the process, one of the most common opponents of far reaching education reform has turned out to be the Teachers' Unions themselves, which consistently lobby (unsuccessfully) to improve their funding, while simultaneously lobbying to limit the funding that goes to new programs or charter schools. Several acquaintances have undertaken a Charter school start-up only to find that their biggest and most time consuming battles turn out to be with obstructionist local Unions and public school administrations. The old ineffective infrastructure is quite literally the enemy of new improvement.

But perhaps there is hope. In a fortuitous turn to a rather morbid beginning, the Hurricane Katrina disaster has become a boon to New Orleans children by having wiped out the public school infrastructure, and the union support with it. Without an entrenched infrastructure and functional administration already in place, the dysfunction of the public school systems became readily apparent. Private and charter schools seized the opportunity to fill the gaps where nothing materialized from the public systems in the aftermath of the storm. New Orleans now seems to stand as the "Most Chartered City in the US." Read more about the story in this press release from the Hoover Institution.

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