There is general agreement
that American schools need fundamental restructuring. Superficial change is not
sufficient. What is needed are changes in the way schools are organized and
managed in order to help students master academic essentials and critical
More educational, political
and business leaders are recognizing that the key to educational renewal lies in
giving parents the ability to choose the best school for their children. We
need, in a word, perestroika in our educational sphere. At present,
government takes our educational dollars and distributes them in ways that are
often not in line with how the consumer would choose to spend them. By returning
to parents their tax dollars and allowing them to choose their child's school,
the schools will have to restructure themselves to win the confidence and
fidelity of the parents.
David P. Kearns, chairman
of Xerox Corporation, has been an outspoken
advocate of educational reform. He co-authored Winning the Brain Race with Dennis P. Doyle and concluded with this
any measure, today's educational system is a failed monopoly. That it is failing
large numbers of students is beyond dispute--one quarter do not graduate and
another quarter are so poorly prepared academically that they are not ready for
work or post-secondary education. But does that unacceptably high rate of
failure have anything to do with the schools' monopoly position? We are
convinced it does. The monopolist is free to ignore the legitimate needs and
interests of both the consumer and the worker, a picture that describes the
reality of today's educational system. Teachers and students are the losers ....
In the parlance of business, that would be known as "conspiracy in restraint of
Providing choice means allowing schools to compete with one another for the most
valuable of assets: students....
choice in and of itself is an empty concept unless there are real decisions to
be made among alternate providers. Henry Ford, for example, is reputed to have
said that customers could have any color Ford they wanted so long as it was
black. A real educational choice system can be effective only if it leads to
significant diversity among schools, and if it's backed by the capacity of
parents, students and teachers to make real decisions.
the pages that follow, the case will be made that our parents and students can
be given a real choice of schools. Once parents are free to choose, each school
will naturally strive to become the best provider of educational services in
order to attract students. Michigan, which has lagged behind a number of
educational innovations taking place in the country, can put its mark on the
future now by taking bold steps toward educational choice.
kind of real reform, generated by parents and students, has the potential to
transform our state and national education enterprise. We do not have to accept
an inferior educational system. We can, once again, restore American leadership
in educational excellence. We must demand change because the welfare of our
children, our state, and our nation is at stake.