Weary of the more-resources-same-bureaucracy approach to education reform, a network of philanthropists is moving forward with social entrepreneurship efforts to transform education in poor areas. The N.C.-based Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation will: "invest $1 million over two years in a partnership that aims to improve performance in the Northampton County Schools in northeastern North Carolina and generate a broader collaborative effort to spur economic growth in the rural county." (Read more here.)
The truth is, while these efforts are laudable, they will never make the necessary impact unless state bureaucracies let go of their stranglehold over the schools. Social entrepreneurship – coupled with the diversity and experimentation that comes with individual choice – is the only way our schools have a shot.
Impediments to meaningful reform include the agenda of teachers unions (protecting economic interests and cushy positions) in collusion with state bureaucracies, one-size-fits-all curricula, and the plaque of path dependence. The status quo in N.C. is an education monopoly whose output rivals that of the former East Germany in terms of quality and efficiency. And while a greater share of our disposable income goes to this failed system, that means considerably fewer resources can go to real reform efforts like that of the Reynolds Foundation.
Hopefully this Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation program can make some improvements where the current system has failed. Sadly, however, they will still have mostly to operate within the status quo, which means gains may only be marginal. In any case, we should celebrate what social entrepreneurs are doing around the country for education reform–despite a system that creates so much treacle for them to run in.