Rick Hess on school choice, Common Core and for-profits in education


For those who dismiss the potential upside of for-profits in education, Rick Hess asks them to consider virtually every other aspect of their lives.

“Think about other big investments people make: their house, their car, their tablet or smartphone,” wrote Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, in a live chat on redefinED today. “If you told folks that they could get a house or car made by a nonprofit, they wouldn’t think it was better – odds are, they’d look at you like you were nuts.”

“Fact is, in most of American life, something being a for-profit is generally regarded as a good thing – and government-provided services are frequently regarded as mediocre, or suspect. It’s not immediately clear to me that it ought to be expected to be different in education.”

We asked Hess to join us because he has co-edited a new book on for-profits in education, “Private Enterprise and Public Education.” But over the course of an hour, he weighed in on a wide range of topics. Among the highlights:

On Jeb Bush, his presidential ambitions and Common Core: “Jeb’s got a remarkable track record on education. But, especially in GOP primaries, his full-throated backing of Common Core could trump the rest.”

On President Obama and his administration’s lawsuit against vouchers in Louisiana: “It’s a good move if Obama is trying to score points with the teacher unions and traditional education establishment, or if he’s trying to extend the reach of the federal government in education. It’s a bad move for the affected kids in Louisiana or if he’s interested in trying to claim bipartisan support for his education agenda.”

On Florida, Common Core and PARCC: “I think it’s likely Florida will drop PARCC. Will be interesting to see what follows. … This is the fascinating thing about the Common Core; for it to deliver on its promise, a ton of stuff has to go right. For it to not deliver, only a couple little things have to go south.”

On a criticism school choice supporters should take to heart: Don’t dismiss suburban parents who don’t want their schools to invite in low-performing students through choice plans. “Choice advocates have denounced such parents and communities, and even implied they’re racist. It might be useful to recognize that they’ve worked hard, played by the rules, and sought to provide their kids a good education … Empathetic reform would start by taking these issues seriously, and asking how to frame a win-win agenda.”

You can replay the chat here:

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at rmatus@stepupforstudents.org or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at facebook.com/redefinedonline.

One Comment

Doug Tuthill

This was very informative.

I appreciate Rick’s time and the work Ron, Sherri and the rest of the crew put into pulling this off.

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