SKOKIE, IL – Hundreds of Chicagoland residents flocked to a townhall meeting on education reform last week, as school choice advocates continued a nationwide push to highlight the issue during National School Choice Week. The program, which was co-sponsored by local conservative talk station AM 560 WIND, featured a panel discussion among syndicated talker Michael Medved, political strategist and author Dick Morris, and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The trio traded ideas on how to improve America’s schools and attempted to diagnose a number of the system’s key flaws in a discussion moderated by John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute.
“Our current system is wrong. Competition is the bedrock of America, and it’s time that education reaches the market economy,” Hastert asserted, prompting nods of agreement from his co-panelists. “It come down to a core American value: equal opportunity,” Medved added. “Conservatives don’t believe in equal outcomes. But from the time of founding, part of what this country is about is everybody gets a shot. That’s what we’re affirming here tonight,” he said. Morris suggested that by injecting greater competition into the system, individual schools and districts could serve as educational laboratories. “We’ve tried testing, standards, and funding increases. The only remaining option is opening up the status quo to experiments,” he said, arguing that outcomes should dictate future priorities. “Let’s find out what works, and let the money go with the kids. At that point, when people ask which schools to close, the answer is the empty ones.”
During the wide-ranging discussion, the panel explored a number of potential experimental programs, from inner city public boarding schools, to significantly shortening summer break, to reinstituting trade schools as a viable and respected option for students.
“We have this idea in the US that every child is the same. We also have this idea that every single American child should go to college. That’s not a good idea. College prep work sets up a huge number of children for guaranteed failure. It’s perfectly possible to make a great living and be a wonderful citizen without being a college prep student,” Medved said.
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