Central Falls Firings Should Only Be First Step

From the OSPRI Weekly Update:

Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has done a wonderful job pushing Rhode Island towards a more responsible system. You may recall she eliminated employee bumping last year. This is the practice of teachers with seniority being allowed to ‘bump’ a less senior teacher out of her classroom and take her job. The brilliance of this move is that when/if the Central Falls teachers are terminated they won’t then be able to bump their way back into a school near you.

The commissioner’s reforms, upon the backdrop of Mayor McKee and the success of Mayoral Academies, are all evidence that a critical mass of parents are unhappy with Rhode Island’s education system and action is being taken. However, these are still just nibbles along the edges.

Gist is taking power away from unions and implementing control through the state, such as the no-bumping change. McKee is taking power away from school committees by providing a public school option run through the mayor’s office. We like the intent, but what happens if Gist and/or McKee is replaced by Mussolini-lite? Aren’t we just trading masters?

Lost in this discussion is liberty. Individual liberty with which comes personal responsibility. Purchasing power should be in the hands of those with the most vested interest – the parent. The solution to education reform lies in shifting control not from one government entity to another, but from government to the individual (or parent in this case).

Watching La Razza and Progresso Latino on the front lines in the battle for last year’s Mayoral Academies and the lifting of the moratorium on charter schools, dispels the myth that school choice will cause inner-city children, particularly those with uninvolved parents, to suffer in an education system where the government doesn’t look out for them.

We don’t have grocery store committees that dictate where we shop, what we buy, and how much we pay for our groceries, why do we allow the government to dictate to us where we send out children to school and how much we will pay? Schools can remain “public” and still operate in a competitive free-market environment – they just chose not to. And since they have historically had the power around here, they haven’t had to.

But now that we have a new sheriff in town, maybe that will change. I wonder if Commissioner Gist’s next move will be to propose a funding formula that follows the child … to any school.

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