Mick Zais’ Battle for Education Reform in South Carolina

Ben Velderman of the Education Action Group wrote an excellent profile on South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais in a guest post over at Caffeinated Carolina.  I encourage you to read it.

Here’s a money quote for me:

“The education industrial complex is bipartisan,” Zais said. “We have RINOs – Republicans in Name Only – who are intimidated by the lobbying groups that get the public and the teachers all excited that we’re trying to destroy public education. In reality, we want to make it better and more accountable.”

To achieve those ends, he believes local schools must be given more authority and responsibility.

“There’s too much control coming out of Washington and Columbia,” Zais said.

‘Our traditional schools have a monopoly’…

“Our traditional schools have a monopoly,” Zais said. “And monopolies have little incentive for improving or controlling costs. Accountability, competition and incentives have the power to transform the system.”

Zais’ education reform proposals are designed to break that monopoly.

Ah music to my ears.  Think South Carolina would switch with Iowa?  South Carolinians are fortunate to have a man like Zais at the helm of the State Department of Education.

Education Monopolies: Money Down the Drain

Deborah Thornton, a research analyst at the Public Interest Institute in Mt. Pleasant, IA, pointed out in a guest post at Caffeinated Thoughts that even though education spending has increased dramatically over the last 20 years, results have not.  Thornton writes:

For example, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2007 reported that 12th grade reading achievement nationwide had declined from 1992 to 2005, by four points (292 to 288).  The percent of students scoring at or above “proficient” was 38 percent, a flat score.  The percent scoring at or above “basic,” was actually lower than in 1992.

The 2009 NAEP report included a pilot program providing in-depth information for 11 states, including Iowa.  Iowa was one of only five states with higher scores in both reading and math than the national average.  Both the reading and math scores for Iowa students were four points higher than the national average.

The NAEP report is the nation’s “report card.”  On a standard A, B, C, D scale of grades, even Iowa schools did no better than a “C” at teaching the basics of reading and math.  This is not a report card our schools and teachers should want.  The results of the NAEP annual report have remained flat since 1992, for almost 20 years.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States spends $10,000 per student on primary, secondary, and tertiary education. As of 2006, we were spending over seven percent of our Gross Domestic Product on education, according to The UK Guardian.  Iowa ranks 26th nationwide in per-pupil spending, at $7,574 per pupil, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

We are spending a significant amount of our national treasury on education and that amount has steadily increased.  However, the results have not changed for the better.

Yet we still hear the clamoring of more money, more money, more money for education!  Education takes up roughly 60% of Iowa’s state budget.  How much more can we really justify spending with these anemic results?