Arnold Kling  

Serfdom Watch

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The Washington Post writes,

Parents [in Adelanto, California] are trying to become the first in the country to use a trigger law, which allows a majority of families at a struggling school to force major changes, from firing the principal to closing the school and reopening it as an independent charter. All they need to do to wrest control is sign a petition.

This story struck me as demonstrating the level of serfdom to which we have sunk.

1. Note that the default is that parents do not control their school. They have to petition to take control away from the state.

2. When school districts were smaller and teachers' unions had less political muscle, local schools really did belong to the parents. This is not such a radical concept.

3. Note that this is a California law. The rest of us do not even have this tool available.

4. Not surprisingly, The Empire Strikes Back:

In recent weeks, a group of parents opposed to the trigger has formed, with help from the California Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union.

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COMMENTS (12 to date)
Joel writes:

You forgot "5. Exit vs. Voice". :)

Floccina writes:

It seems to me that much of the current education system is based on the idea that Government knows much better than parents what is best in education. Yet the median voter and the insiders run the schools. Further some students still do not go to school much and manage not to learn much. I once read that Murray Rothbard said something like "If the child does not want to learn and his parents do not care if he learns, he will not learn." The case can be made that if schools where run by charities that they would try to lure such children to schools and so would have a better chance of getting the child to want to learn.

NOTE: The expert might know much more what children in general need but parents still might know better what their particular child needs.

David R. Henderson writes:

Good point, but you overstated it when you wrote:
When school districts were smaller and teachers' unions had less political muscle, local schools really did belong to the parents.
Parents had more control but the schools really didn’t belong to the parents.

Becky Hargrove writes:

In a sense the schools did once belong to the parents. In many one room schoolhouses of the south, communities pooled money to pay for schoolteachers in the early 20th century. Perhaps the present day taxation of property is a formal version of that, only now everyone pays vastly more money with far less voice. The ideal system would be knowledge entrepreneurs who promote their product to adult and child alike, in which the child gets first choice so long as agreed upon standards are met and all views considered where materials are debated socially.

PrometheeFeu writes:

The flip side of course is that the parents are spending other people's money when they run the school, just as the principal did. Of course, they actually have a stake in the outcome which is a big improvement over principals but they still have no stake in the cost.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Becky Hargrove,
Arnold’s talking about when school districts were small and unions had less political muscle. That was true in the 1950s. You’re talking about a much earlier era.

Thomas DeMeo writes:

Let's not pretend that parental control of schools doesn't come with it's own set of problems.

jb writes:

@Thomas DeMeo -

What?? You mean there are tradeoffs between different positions? That's a novel concept that was completely un-obvious until you mentioned it. We'll have to re-think everything!

Snark aside, it would be helpful if you would indicate what you believe are the problems associated with parental control. For example:
1) Parental competition, groupthink and analysis paralysis
2) If parents are in charge, they are seen more moral legitimacy to demand funds (i.e. raise taxes or starve other government sectors)
3) Parents are not necessarily effective administrators
4) Parents cannot be objective, and manage as fairly as a dis-interested bureaucrat (at least in theory)
5) With no upward career path, teachers may flee the district

Pandaemoni writes:

Having little to no say in the running of a public school in a society where private schools exist? First world problems.

Likening that to a species of slavery seems a bit overstated.

Thomas DeMeo writes:


I only wrote what I did because no attempt was made to deal with that side of the equation.

My primary concern is that education quality will become even more a function of parental quality than it already is. The only reason to make education a government responsibility in the first place is to mitigate this.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

I don't want parents to be in charge of schools. I want to be in charge of my children's schooling, meaning I want to be legally able to decide who I am going to pay to educate my child without much government involvement.

I don't want a school board telling me whether I should have an Android or iPhone. I want to be able to walk into an Apple store and buy an iPhone if I want.

Furthermore, I really suspect there is some kind of problem if I go into an Apple store and they feel my kid needs to pass some kind of test for me to buy him an iPhone. Yes, if he acts up in the Apple store, kick him out, but why do I need to sell my kid to the Apple store when they should be selling their iPhone to me!

[Those who have tried to get their kids into private school in an urban area understand what I am saying!]

HJ writes:

Private schools are the answer. Always have been the answer. Always will be the answer.
Public school system knows it. Have always and will always fight them. Public schools purposely raise their costs as high as possible. They welcomed the unions because they served their cause. They keep making public schools more expensive: smaller classes etc.
They also make the cost of entry to open private schools more expensive. It becomes prohibitive to pay the taxes and pay for private school education for your children.
Public schools are increasingly controlled by the bureaucrats. This will enable them to more easily carry out their ultimate goal. The dumbing down of America.

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