There’s a good debate about the state of education on Cato Unbound. I particularly liked this thread from Michael Strong. A slice:
The salient question is will we do more harm, on average, allowing parents and students greater decision-making powers in education than we are already doing. It seems unlikely that parents and students would do much worse and highly likely that they will do far better over time once we have created a competitive education market.
There are several features of a prospective competitive market in education that seem to confuse some observers. First of all, education is often somewhat of a natural monopoly in many places; insofar as families have to bear the costs (in time and money) of transporting their children to non-neighborhood schools, there is often a significant implicit tax associated with all but the geographically closest schools. As a consequence, most local education markets are oligopolies rather than competitive markets.
In order to overcome the quasi-natural monopoly of local schooling, we need national educational chains that compete for the opportunity to create new schools, with national brand-name appeal and associated capitalization and focused R&D to support their particular brand advantage. KIPP, Green Dot, and others are the beginning of this trend, but they are all still developing their ability to bring quality to scale. John Merrifield explains why large scale school choice is a crucial prerequisite to reaping the benefits of innovation and how the few existing choices are largely irrelevant.
Speaking of scalable franchises, Thales Academy – for $5000 per year – sounds like a very competitive model. Parents have to decide whether they like Direct Instruction, though. But ignore the unions. It works.