These video interviews were conducted at the National Summit on Education Reform in Washington, D.C. as part of National School Choice Week, a non-partisan initiative to raise awareness of how competition and choice can transform K-12 education. Most of the videos run one to two minutes, but a few run longer. They touch on an interesting range of topics on how to improve education in the US.
Julio Fuentes is the president of the Florida-based Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, which was founded in 2001 to promote school choice as a way to help Latino students get a better education.
Andrew Coulson, director of the Center for Education Freedom at the Cato Institute, believes giving businesses tax credits for sending kids to private school is the most effective way to expand school choice. The regulatory and legal obstacles to charters schools and vouchers, he argues, present too many hassles to work around.
Lindsey Burke is a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, who has written widely about the need to change the incentive structure in public education to better serve kids.
Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has drawn national attention for her fight to make teachers better. She created a new statewide teacher evaluation system, she raised Rhode Island’s standards for acceptance into teacher-preparation programs, and she fired all the teachers at at a failing high school near Providence when they resisted reform. These efforts landed her on Time’s 100 most influential people list in 2010.
What’s the best way to bypass the centralized bureaucracies that run America’s school system? Reason Foundation Director of Education Lisa Snell is an advocate of simply attaching money to kids, so when a student leaves a failing school so does a portion of its funding.
Newark, New Jersey spends an astounding $23,141 per student. That money pays for a school system in which 40 percent of high school students pass a standard proficiency test. Why aren’t Garden State taxpayers getting more for their money?
Steve Barr is the founder of Green Dot Public Schools, which operates 10 charter schools in Los Angeles and one school in New York City, which it opened in partnership with the United Federation of Teachers. Green Dot’s entire teaching staff is unionized, which makes it unusual among charter operators. It considers unions a “key constituent” in its mission to “drive change.”
New Orleans is home to the most choice-friendly school system in the country, with more than 70 percent of its students attending charter schools. This was Hurricane Katrina’s silver lining: After the long-failing school system was literally destroyed, it could be rebuilt from the ground up. Paul Pastorek, superintendent of Louisiana Schools since 2007, has been trying to shakeup the education system not only in New Orleans but throughout the state through initiatives such as assigning letter grades for all schools, school board reform, and a new law that aims to cut red tape.
Should parents who’ve already paid a premium to live in a good school district oppose school choice? Reason.tv sat down with Matthew Ladner of the Goldwater Institute to talk about how choice affects middle-class kids. Ladner has written widely on education policy, and before coming to Goldwater he was the director of state projects at the Alliance for School Choice.
Virginia’s Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson believes more school choice leads to better outcomes for black students. Robinson is the former president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and was a senior fellow at the Institute for the Transformation of Learning. In 2008, he co-authored The Color of Success: Black Student Achievement in Public Charter Schools, which showed that charter schools are helping narrow the black-white achievement gap.
Lisa Graham Keegan is founder and president of the Education Breakthrough Network, which provides support and information to people working to expand school options for kids. From 1995 to 2001, Keegan was Arizona’s top education official; prior to that, she served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1991 to 1995.
Jay Greene is the author of numerous studies demonstrating that more choice in education leads to better outcomes. A professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas and a fellow at the George W. Bush institute, Greene is also the author of Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About our Schools—and Why It Isn’t So.
As chancellor of New York City’s Department of Education from 2002-2010, Joel Klein oversaw dramatic changes to the largest school system in the country. He worked hard to increase choice and accountability by increasing the autonomy and accountability of principals and championing charter schools. He also fought (with mixed success) to make it easier to hire and fire teachers and to eliminate onerous work rules.
As governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, Jeb Bush championed school choice. His first year in office he created a program that offered vouchers to students in failing schools. The program successfully boosted student achievement until it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2006. Two other Bush-supported programs — one that offers tax credits to business that help send low-income kids to private schools and another that gives vouchers to disabled students — survived the high-court ruling. Bush also expanded the Florida Virtual School, a national model for online public education. Since leaving office, Bush has promoted his reform agenda in other states. He founded the Foundation for Excellence in Education and serves as co-chair of the Digital Learning Council.