Monday, September 12, 2011

Rural schools...  

Won't fit in any of the answers for America's education system. Consider this otherwise good idea for our economy and school system from Kim Manzi:
1. Deregulate schools. A publicly-funded private school is a contradiction in terms; with predominantly public funding comes the inevitable and appropriate demand for public accountability. But we need public schools to have greater flexibility in how they do their work—both in order to discover improved methods and also to tailor approaches to different kinds of students—while simultaneously exposing them to the kind of unsentimental feedback loop for school performance that markets can provide. Education is an industry representing about 4 percent of GDP that is badly in need of deregulation. 
School deregulation is much broader than “school choice,” and should have two key components. First, the federal government should establish a comprehensive national exam by grade level to be administered by all schools that are materially publicly funded. We should require each school to publish all results, along with detailed data about school budgets, performance, and so on, each year. Second, continued federal funding should be contingent on states’ passing model-schools legislation that creates simple, uniform rules for establishing new charter schools, and establishes the absolute requirement that funding follows students. 
The primary role of the federal government would be to ensure consistent, high-quality information, provide normal market regulation to allow education providers to achieve efficient scale, and sponsor rigorous basic research on educational practices. The role of education providers would be to compete entrepreneurially within this framework.
This is not a panacea. In a nation in which about 40 percent of all births occur out of wedlock, many children will be left behind. But better schools will create material improvement. And this method is not theoretical: Versions have already been implemented successfully in Sweden and the Netherlands, and a similar program is being implemented in Britain now. [More]
As always, vouchers and choice mean little when the only school for miles is the one you already have. But the teeny number of students and lack of political clout hint at even further degradation for small schools.

Nor is the idea of spending massive amounts to keep them up to the pace of city schools a good one either. Like much of our rural culture (churches, recreation, retail, etc.) demographics is the obstacle you can't finesse. As long as we continue to lose people, I see no alternative to losing local services, and Australian-like outback lifestyles.

Next up might be rural mail delivery.
I'm not opposed to small towns having a post office. I am not opposed to small, low-population counties continuing to exist as they were drawn at statehood. I am opposed to government spending money to maintain something that is inefficient and obsolete only because it is politically too painful to change it. The reality of rural America is that we've had a great deal for a long time and it's become an entitlement in our minds.
Rural Free Delivery started in 1902 across most of the United States. It cut the number of post offices by two thirds but added a lot of jobs for rural letter carriers, and a valuable service for farm families. The system worked so well that it endeared the "mail carrier" to those who saw the car or truck stop at their mail box each day. What most people don't see is the massive infrastructure behind the letter carrier and the incredible cost of transferring mail across the country so that each of us gets ours in our box, six days a week. [More]
I think Ken is right. From roads to RFD to schools, many of the elements of our wonderful way of life were heavily subsidized by urban taxpayers. That's going to stop, IMHO, regardless of who is president or Speaker.


Jake in OH said...

John, that postal article was interesting in saying UPS or FedEx could take over package delivery in rural areas.

I live in one of those rural areas too. A couple of Saturdays ago I went to mail a package (smaller than a breadbox). Stopped at UPS first. Cheapest rate I could find for 2 day ground was $13.

I said no thanks. Went to my local post office. $3.18 and it got there by Tuesday.

Anyone complaining about the price of stamps or post office costs need to step into the real world. There is a way to salvage this system if they ran it like a business the way it was intended.

Brian in Central IL said...

The issue with the post office is their inability to run as a firm. They need to de-regulate and be allowed to make money. Currently it is illegal to make a profit but ok to run a deficit? Come on! I only need mail one day a week, and if I had to stop by the post office to pick it up that would be fine by me. For some I realize this won't work, there are those who cannot or should not leave their house, but for the vast majority this is a luxury precipitated by wasted trips down the driveway to get the junk I didn't ask for (bills included).

As for schools I am on board. We need to privitize as much as we can. Those schools kicking out the best results will get the kids, make it like college. If you want the best you go to the best, if you want a certain expereince like math or science or ag, then go to those schools.