On the bright side, in this case, these schools are accountable to the public, and so we have data on their failures and can actually do something about their decline. So this would seem to be a positive outcome: Various new schooling experiments are being tried, many are failing, and were going to close down the catastrophes. What’s strange, though, is that I keep hearing that a total absence of public oversight mixed with financial incentives for schools to stay open — and continue making money — will fix education totally. Yet those two things appear to behind the failures here.
This is all part of the great voucher debate, of course, which often seems to proceed as if actual results don’t matter. And many times that’s true, because an awful lot of voucher proponents are motivated either by some Platonic devotion to the free market as a panacea for everything or by a desire to make sure their kids attend only schools with the right racial or religious makeup. Ditto for things like hating on teachers unions or the endless textbook wars, which are mostly articles of faith untouched by questions of whether they actually make a difference in educational outcomes. It’s great fodder for the culture war hucksters, but not so good for actual children.