The ever-soaring cost of college is an understandable obsession of American parents. And it does seem as if the tide has begun to turn, with more parents scrutinizing tuition, student loan rates and even the value of the traditional four-year college path.
But for many of us, the questionable price and effectiveness of educating our children should be something we take a hard look at before it's time to consider college. A growing number of Americans are starting to demand a lot more bang for their buck when it comes to elementary, middle and high school education.
Two recent news items point to this trend, and I have to say it's a trend anyone who adheres to free-market beliefs should like a lot:
Colorado County Gets It Right
The school board in the Denver suburb of Douglas County implemented a policy this year moving teachers to merit pay over seniority-based pay. The board made almost $16 million available for the initiative by suspending both collection of teachers' union dues and the use of taxpayer money to cover union officer salaries, and tapping into a special state fund for great teachers.
It's too early to judge the program's total success. Most of the teachers are opting to be judged for their effectiveness and opting out of the seniority-only based process. Student achievement is close to the highest in the state, and a new report says teacher relationships with parents and administrators are improving.
Surely, there are many teacher union types who will question and attack the above results. But what they cannot do is show any proof of the Armageddon they predicted would happen by switching to merit-pay options. And while the policy change had a lot to do with the efforts of local politicians, parents' wanting to see their property tax dollars spent more wisely are a big reason this is happening.
Once again, caveat emptor works. Sure, demanding that we get more for our money in public education is likely to get you unfairly labeled as someone who hates children and teachers. But kids and adults alike should be grateful for those brave souls willing to take that abuse and push for real financial responsibility.