Timing Poor as Aspen Hits a Wall

Timing Poor as Aspen Hits a Wall

In a case of remarkably unfortunate timing, the Aspen Institute just released a report praising the cooperation of administrators and the teachers’ union of Pittsburgh schools in devising strategies for improving education. A key element in the plan, developed using Gates Foundation funding, is an academy to train new teachers. Unfortunately for the academy, budgetary pressures have forced the school district to cancel the program. New teachers may face layoffs after moving to the city.

And what does the new superintendent tell the Gates people? The teacher training was to be a centerpiece of efforts to improve education in the City. After years of new programs designed by legions of "education" experts over multiple decades, the academic performance in many Pittsburgh schools has descended to levels that can only be described as dreadful.

What a shame the Gates Foundation has so much money to waste on yet another doomed to fail experiment. Too bad it did not offer $40 million in scholarships for students to get out of the failing schools into a chance for a good education instead of funding more experimenting with public schools-the money pit of government run programs. A serious exodus of students to non-public schools might actually create incentives to improve in the public schools. But even if it does not, at least the scholarship users would get a better shot at a good education.

And true to form, the Aspen education expert was quoted as lamenting any cuts in state funding for public education. Perhaps his study did not uncover, or chose to ignore, the outrageous per student spending in Pittsburgh or the huge run up in non-teaching employees during the last decade. Devotees and defenders of public education just cannot bring themselves to admit the fundamental flaws inherent in government run monopolies.