Thursday, January 18, 2007

Back to School in New York

Close but no cigar

Today Mayor Bloomberg announced the new budget, which included new ideas to improve the city's public schools. The labor unions are upset so he must be on the right track (there is nothing worse for needed change than entrenched bureaucracies, which impeed competition, creativity, risk-taking and personal responsibility: all needed elements for progress). The Mayor wants to make it less easy for teachers to get tenure, allow funding-allocation and hiring changes so that the wealthier schools don't get all the best teachers, give school principles more autonomy and calls for the ubiquituous "more funding".

Of course the next, unspoken and unfortunately not taken, step is more choice on part of parents in their children's education, with more choice for specialized curriculum and decentralized hiring and promotional decisions. The schools have plenty of money, it is just spent poorly (no reason to be efficient or effective, yet) so give the $12,000 plus per student (actually make it less as competition keeps prices down and quality up) to the parents and let them use it more wisely than the public bureaucracy ever could.

The new budget also includes tax decreases (real estate taxes and sales tax on clothing) as the state's coffers are doing well with the real estate boom - yes it is still going on in NYC, but real estate tax decreases may be non-progressive without reform in rental laws as well.

By the way Adam Smith, despite reknown as a promoter of laissez-faire, also firmly believed that public education is needed to keep us workers from becoming brain-dead through increasing specialization, so let's assume he is right, assume that public spending is how to do it (eg assume what we have which is oftentimes the way of economics) and let's try to improve the return on our money by bringing the market to bear on eduction.