Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Solution for HISD

Houston Independent School District (HISD) Superintendent David Grier wants to cut ties with Community Education Partners, the company that has been running two alternative schools for the school district. The Chronicle reports that Grier wants others to compete for a new school:
The new alternative school, estimated to cost $14 million, would serve only those students who commit serious offenses such as selling drugs or bringing weapons on campus that require expulsion under state law or district policy. HISD currently gives principals the option of sending students to CEP for discretionary reasons such as smoking, using profanity or chronically misbehaving.

Grier is proposing that students who commit less serious offenses get sent to another HISD campus in a swapping program. Problem students at one middle or high school would be sent to another in hopes that their behavior would improve in a different environment — away from friends but without the metal detectors and strict rules of an alternative school.
Forced to "educate" children who have no interest in school, HISD has little choice but to keep trying new programs. And taxpayers have no choice but to continue paying for these futile attempts to accomplish what is nearly impossible--reforming disinterested students.

The purpose of the schools is to educate, not transform delinquents. If these kids don't want to learn, nothing the district does will change that fact. Instead of subjecting teachers and other students to the antics of these punks, HISD should simply expel them.

Of course, this is easier said than done, given the public nature of HISD. Unlike private schools, HISD must accept virtually everyone who shows up at its doors, including those who want to do nothing but cause problems.

The long-term solution is to get government out of the education business entirely. Problem students would no longer be a political issue, but a private matter between the school and the student. While many, if not most, would consider this impractical, the truth is that prior to the Civil War virtually all education was provided by the private sector.

Educator Robert Peterson has written:
Historical records, which are by no means complete, reveal that over one hundred and twenty-five private schoolmasters advertised their services in Philadelphia newspapers between 1740 and 1776. Instruction was offered in Latin, Greek, mathematics, surveying, navigation, accounting, bookkeeping, science, English, and contemporary foreign languages. Incompetent and inefficient teachers were soon eliminated, since they were not subsidized by the State or protected by a guild or union. Teachers who satisfied their customers by providing good services prospered.
In short, those who wanted an education, including the poor, had abundant opportunities to attain it. Schools were not forced to deal with disruptive students, nor were taxpayers forced to pay for the education of others. If HISD--or anyone for that matter--really wants to solve our education woes, it would do well to study history. In the case of education, it is a history well worth repeating.

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