Thursday, May 19, 2011

Show me the money...

I'll start this post by saying that I'm a huge fan of private schools.  I think they're a better form of education, and part of the reason I'm a fan will hopefully be revealed here.

Now that I've turned off probably 80% of my topic for today :)

It's nearing the end of the school year here in Alberta, and budget cuts are being seen across all programs.  I was curious one day just how much money is spent on children's education in Alberta.  I was quite shocked at the result - a little over $12,000 (that's education budget divided by students).  That includes everything to do with education in Alberta - all the administration, all the school upkeep, all the salaries, all the supplies...everything.

I then looked around and remembered that I worked at a fantastic private school last year that charged a grand total of $9,000 per kid.  Since the government gave them some money as well, it worked out to about $13,000 per child, or about a thousand more than the Alberta government is spending on education.

The differences are huge, I accept - managing an entire province costs money, managing multiple schools costs money, and helping all the kids we have to help costs money too...but, can't we spend it a bit better?

My proposal - treat every public school like a private one.  Give them the money per kid - all of it, minus a few salaries at the ministerial level - and say "go forth and teach".  Trust the principal, trust the teachers, and trust the parents to keep it all running.  There doesn't need to be a district, there doesn't need to be special funds to various schools for this or that...there just needs to be money, per child, in the hands of the people who are actually doing the teaching.

It works for some FANTASTIC schools in Canada - there isn't any oversight for the private schools in Canada - they sink or swim based on their ability to deliver quality education.

Some would argue that the parents donate huge sums of money to these schools - yes, they do, but not for programming.  Check for yourself - all their books are public because they're charities, and you can see that every dime they receive from parents and the government is spent on salaries and yearly programming - nothing capital.  In addition, parent donations are spent entirely on capital projects or scholarships, not yearly programming.

So really, what would go wrong?  If we hire a good principal, back them up with a volunteer board of appropriate business and education professionals in the community and run it like a business delivering education...what's the trouble?  The school would be accountable because the parents would have total choice over where their child went to school and the money would follow the child.  Schools that weren't using the money well and delivering bad programs would be simply put "out of business".

If a private school can deliver the kind of education they can on about the same as the government spends....where's the money going?

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