The Education Liberator, Vol. 1, No. 2, October 1995
Signs of the potential for a free market in education grow
The Wall Street Journal reports that the "burgeoning for-profit education industry" has shifted its emphasis from remediation of struggling children to those looking to get ahead. These learning centers range from single, storefront schools to international chains with hundreds of locations. Ambitious growth plans characterize the industry. Sylvan Learning Systems plans on opening 200 new centers by 1997, up from 500 centers currently. Futurekids has been opening one new location a week for the last three years and is aiming for 1,000 locations worldwide by 2000.
In June, the Supreme Court decided the case of Missouri vs. Jenkins, ending one of the most spectacular failures of government control of schools. In 1985, a single judge took control of the school district in Kansas City, Missouri. Spending $1.5 billion over the normal budget, the judge created state-of-the-art school facilities with greenhouses, athletic arenas, a planetarium, radio and TV studios, and computers in every classroom. The result: no measureable improvement in academic achievement, a fallen attendance rate, and a dropout rate that remains at 60% for high school students.
In the concurring opinion that finally removed Kansas City schools from almost a decade of judicial control, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas stated that "not only did the District Court exercise the legislative power to tax, it also engaged in budgeting, staffing, and educational decisions, in judgements about the location and aesthetic quality of the schools, and in administrative oversight and monitoring.... [W]e must remember that a deserving end does not justify all possible means. The desire to reform a school district, or any other institution, cannot so captivate the judiciary that it forgets its constitutionally mandated role."
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