Advancing a Free Society

How to Reboot K-12

Thursday, February 9, 2012

With the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act overdue for reauthorization, the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education recommends a new and powerful strategy for fundamental education reform—and a major makeover of the customary federal role: allow states receiving federal funding to opt out of traditional federal constraints if they create vibrant marketplaces for informed school choice.

In the report, Choice and Federalism: Defining the Federal Role in Education, we the Task Force recommend that Washington limit its education role to what it can do best: encouraging states to create level playing fields that expand school options and competition, along with access to accurate information on school performance, to generate the greatest opportunity for students and their families to make well-informed decisions about where to enroll.

There are three choices for confronting America’s broken public education system:

—continue down a path of increased federal control and top-down accountability with regard to public education;

—devolve power to states and districts, thereby returning to the status quo of the mid-90s when local public school monopolies decided how children were to be educated and only the affluent had choice;

—or rethink the fundamentals and do something different by empowering parental choice.

Based on two guiding principles, we believe the third option is best.

Our first guiding principle is fiscal federalism. It suggests that the federal role in education should be specified strategically and grounded in the laws of economics and on empirical evidence of what actually works. The federal role therefore should be confined to what it clearly does best, while states and locales should focus on what they are best suited to do.

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(photo credit: eduardostuart)