Lynch: Little Rock School District deserves criticism

In 1980 I watched the film series “Free to Choose” and Walter Williams was in that film series. I really liked what he had to say.

Dr. Walter Williams proposes:

Failing Public Schools – Give parents greater control over their children’s education by setting up a tuition tax credit or voucher system to broaden competition in turn revitalizing both public and non-public schools

Sweden’s Voucher System Part 1

Pat Lynch “In search of Leadership,” (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Feb 7, 2011) asserted, “Goodness knows, the Little Rock School District gets a fair amount of criticism, and a good deal of it is entirely deserved…Central Arkansas deserves better…”

It is a wonder to me that liberals never admit that maybe the voucher system is worth trying since the current public school system in Little Rock is not working.

Did you know that many of the liberals in Sweden have endorsed the voucher system put in place there? I will be posting parts of the article “Sweden’s school voucher system is a model for America,” (The Daily Caller, Jan 23, 2011) by Odd Eiken.

In 1993, Sweden introduced a system of school choice and vouchers, inspired by the ideas of American economists Milton and Rose Friedman. Even though the system was just as controversial then as any U.S. voucher proposal, the right to chose your school and bring the funding with you is today considered a natural right for families and is widely accepted by all political parties.
Even Sweden’s Social Democratic Party supports the system and recently closed an internal debate on for-profit schools by deciding that there is no virtue in running schools at a loss: schools should be judged on their academic performance, not financial.
The reason for the Swedish voucher reform was both philosophical and practical. The philosophical argument was that since taxpayers have agreed to share the cost for a free and good education, then why should some have to pay for it twice — first with taxes and then in private school fees? The more practical argument came from Swedish experience with educational reforms and innovations in the 1970s that to a large degree failed. It not only caused high costs for society and generations of students who saw few improvements, but it also created an aversion against further innovations and pedagogical experiments.
As American state legislatures begin to convene this winter and again consider education reform, they should empower families and create conditions for entrepreneurship. And as school choice gains popularity among parents and taxpayers, particularly as this is National School Choice Week in the U.S., vouchers should absolutely be on the agenda.
When we designed the Swedish voucher system, we followed the Friedmans’ advice to keep it universal and simple. The answer was a system where funding follows the student regardless of their parents’ income. Under our system, every family has the right to choose a school that’s right for their child. And every student brings with him the same amount of per pupil funding as the cost of the public school in his or her home district.
But under our system, equal terms work both ways. If a school chooses to be part of the voucher system, it has to be all-inclusive, provide national standards and have its performance monitored. And it has no right to charge its students fees beyond the voucher. The purpose was to create equal financial conditions while protecting the ultimate right of the voters and taxpayers to create a budget for spending on schools. Since the public school still often is the default choice, that means that independent schools need to be more creative, productive or academically successful with equal funding in order to compete.

Mr. Odd Eiken is Executive Vice President of Kunskapsskolan Education, the largest private school provider in Sweden. He was State Secretary of Schools in Sweden 1991-94 and helped develop the nation’s voucher reform.

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