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Sunday, October 30, 2005


Privatizing K-12 Education

We are all very aware of the condition of funding for education in the state of Colorado. We have been bombarded lately with ads for and against referenda's C and D, in hopes of helping the financial situation in Colorado. However, if there is such a problem with T.A.B.O.R (which limits the amount of money the state can keep each year) and Amendment 23 (requiring increases in K-12 funding every year), why don't we look at other ways to solve the problem?

I propose privatizing K-12 education to not only free up Colorado's financial obligation to K-12, but doing so would also increase efficiency. The article that is attached to this posting is a study that was done in Hawaii, after that state faced similar budget problems. The study compared private and public K-12 institutions, as well as private and public higher education institutions (however, for the purposes of this posting, I will focus solely on the finding of K-12).

The study found that private schools do a better job at hiring more teachers, which results in smaller class sizes (lower per pupil to teacher ratio), than public institutions. This results in more focused attention on individual students. Private institutions have higher test scores and higher teacher morale. The study shows that income growth in Hawaii is about five times as much with private institutions as it is with public institutions. This just means that the study shows a correlation between increases in participation in private K-12 and increases in gross product per capita. The study does show indicate some benefit from public K-12 in the long run, mainly because more students attend public K-12 rather than private and because some students who would go to private schools in Hawaii, end up going out of state to other private K-12 schools, because their parents can afford it. The survey indicates that the state legislatures should keep this data in mind when deciding what course to take, because private K-12 education helps promote efficiency and competition.

If we transfer some of these ideas to the current status of Colorado's educational system we could alleviate, or at least minimize, many of the budget problems. In 2002-2003, Colorado spent $7,384 per K-12 pupil, while the national average for cost of attending a private K-12 school is around $5,000. Colorado is spending over $2,000 per pupil more than it costs to attend a private school that generally has smaller class sizes, do better on tests, and recruit more teachers that are happier to be there (as seen in the study from Hawaii). If Colorado privatized their K-12 schools, this would create a massive market of K-12 competition, which would drive the cost of education lower-or at the very least stabilize it. It would also force the schools to manage their finances more than they currently do under the state system, because they would no longer have guaranteed state funding.

Of course there are potential flaws privatizing K-12, most importantly is the idea that some families wouldn't be able to afford to educate their children if they are forced to pay for it. This is definitely a concern that should be considered, but discounting the option of privatized based on this unproven idea is irresponsible. Privatized should be considered as a viable option to help resolve the state budget problems, create efficiency within K-12, improve the education that the students receive, and possibly increase state revenue, as shown in the Hawaii study.

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