Wednesday, October 10, 2007


By Preston Manning - From Tuesday's Globe and Mail (Toronto)

OK, one asks, what do the schools in Canada have to to with public school reform in LAUSD? Has 4LAKids been into Michael Moore's Kool Aid? The first and second response one offers is the inevitable: "READ THE BOOK". Times two.

The first book is: THE WORLD IS FLAT. #1 Nonfiction paperback for a reason. Globalization is upon us, accept it. We need to educate our children for it. We must think outside the box. We must look outside our borders.

The second book is William Ouchi's MAKING SCHOOLS WORK, which argues that models of schools in Edmonton, Alberta are as good as they get. 4LAKids likes Ouchi's thinking and the Edmonton model - which empowers principals, parents and school sites at the expense of school districts and central command and control -- by logical extension disempowering superintendents, bureaucrats, boards of education and (uh oh!) teacher's unions.

"Choice" is such a polarizing word for right and left; often preordaining which choice politician's and true believers would have you choose. I support a Woman's Right to Choose and also a parent's right to choose their children's school. I like open enrollment on principle and if LA had an adequate public transportation system like New York City I'd support open enrollment in LAUSD as they have in NYC.

We don't, so I don’t. I don't want every parent in LA driving all over town dropping off their little darlings all over town …I've seen how you drive! 4LAKids is also not on board for public financing of private schools - including vouchers as proposed below - however enlightened - but after calling for all things to be on the table all things should be on the table.

After you read the article I suggest you read the comments on the link following - I'm not posting them here because they are continuing to grow and there's good stuff there. Much of it attacks Ouchi's Edmonton Model - not because it empowers principals but because it over depends on testing, testing, testing.

Good stuff/read on. - smf

PS1: Provincial (State) Governments are in charge of education policy and standards in
Canada. Toronto is in the province of Ontario, Edmonton is in the province of Alberta. Provincial Premiers function as executive and legislative leaders.

PS2: Politics IS genetic! 4LAKids simply can't let the fact that the conservative party chief is named 'John Tory' alone!


October 9, 2007 - Ontario Conservative Leader John Tory's proposal to expand public funding of religious schools raises some important educational issues that need to be wisely resolved in all provinces if we are to provide Canadian children with the best education in the world.

Earlier this year, under the auspices of the Fraser Institute, former Ontario premier Mike Harris and I examined data on the performance of Canadian students in international tests designed to assess their proficiency in reading, science and combined mathematics. The information was compiled by the Program for International Student Assessment, a project of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Overall, Canadian students ranked sixth in reading, 13th in science and 10th in combined mathematics, with Canada ranking well above average in primary and secondary education spending per student.

What is most instructive, however, is the provincial breakdown. With respect to reading, Alberta students had the highest international score of all jurisdictions tested, with Ontario students in fifth place. In science, Alberta students placed third behind Finland and Japan, with Ontario students 15th. And with respect to combined mathematics, Alberta students placed second behind Hong Kong, with Ontario students 11th.

So what is the distinguishing feature of the Alberta educational system that accounts for these differences? It isn't per capita spending, as Alberta's per capita spending on education is about the same as Ontario's.

Alberta excels in Canadian and international education comparisons because the province provides parents with a greater range of educational choices, more “freedom to choose” the best educational options for their children, and more resources to support those choices.

Alberta ensures equity and choice in kindergarten to Grade 12 by funding independent schools and home schooling, as well as the public system.

Accredited private schools receive subsidies worth about 60 per cent of the basic per-student grant available to public schools. Children with special educational needs who attend private schools receive the same funding as they would if they were attending public schools. Accredited independent schools also receive public funding for supervising the education of home-schooled students, while the parents of those children may receive public funding equal to about 15 per cent of what is spent to educate a child in the public system.

Has the provision of greater choice in education eroded the public system in Alberta? No, because constructive competition between public and independent schools strengthens both.

Charter schools have not gained a large foothold in Alberta, in part because far-sighted public school superintendents such as Edmonton's Emery Dosdall responded to demands from parents and educators for new programs by encouraging them to open up new schools within the public system.

In the words of Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby: “It appears that public schools are induced to raise achievement when they are faced with competition. … This is not only good news for students; it should be welcome news to those who think that public schools have much good potential.”

Must the provision of greater freedom of choice in education lead to a plethora of offbeat educational cul-de-sacs operated by insular cultural or religious groups? Not if the province requires all educational institutions – public and private – to be accredited in accordance with clearly established educational standards and to be held publicly accountable for performance and results.

Can mixed educational systems such as Alberta's be improved? Of course. Freedom of choice could be further enhanced by providing parents with educational vouchers that they could cash in at the public or private educational institution of their choosing. Accountability for results could be enhanced by greater use of report cards on schools, such as those pioneered by the Fraser Institute.

The educational debate in Ontario is narrowly focused on whether to publicly fund one form of alternative education, namely religious schools. The bigger issue is how to expand freedom of choice in education for all Ontario parents, while improving the performance of both public and private schools and ensuring their adherence to provincial educational standards.

The following recommendations address this larger issue. They are relevant to all provinces where the objective is to provide Canada's children with the best education in the world:

  • Fully embrace the principles of freedom of choice and accountability for results in K-12 education.
  • Provide a voucher worth 50 per cent of the total per student cost of public education to parents opting for independent education.
  • Support children with special needs, whose parents choose alternative education, by providing those parents with a voucher worth 75 per cent of the cost of their child's education in the public system.
  • Compile and publish annual report cards on all K-12 schools, holding them publicly accountable for results and adherence to provincial standards.

Preston Manning, a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute, founded the Reform Party.


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