Education reform: Who really benefits most?

“Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius alium,” Roman epic poet Virgil wrote in the Aeneid. The phrase translates to “Rumor, than whom no other evil thing is faster.”

Twentieth century British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would later return to the same topic, saying, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

To that we’ll add that some rumors and lies are so potentially poisonous that it behooves the rational-minded to kill those myths in the cradle before they sabotage an entire discourse.

Last week, Education Minister Tara Rivers publicly revealed that Cayman Islands officials are considering a proposal to remove public schools from the direct control of central government and enter into public-private partnerships to deliver public education services.

Ms. Rivers’s declaration followed a separate announcement from Coalition For Cayman leaders, who are urging government to follow the model of a nonprofit U.K. academy operator known as ARK (“Absolute Return for Kids”).

Seemingly as soon as the syllables had left Ms. Rivers’s lips, there was a proliferation of unfounded speculation, media-mixing of objective news reporting and personal opinion (never a good thing) and anonymous bomb-throwing from those who argue that transitioning to a public-private education system will somehow cause underprivileged children to be “left behind” their more fortunate peers.

Let’s examine the experience in the United States, which for 20 years has been experimenting seriously with its version of U.K. academies, called “charter schools” – publicly funded schools that have greater flexibility, and stricter standards, than traditional public schools. While Cayman follows the British system of education, it is the U.S., not England, that is the largest laboratory for this kind of education reform.

The somewhat ad hoc nature of charter school creation in the U.S. – and the direct threat posed to powerful public education lobbies (especially teacher unions and the liberal politicians who depend heavily on union campaign donations) – has led to the same cries about class discrimination that some people in Cayman are now scaremongering about.

In fact, the most current and comprehensive research in the U.S. indicates those fears are misplaced.
A comprehensive 2013 study, involving more than 1.5 million charter school students, by Stanford University’s Center for Research and Education Outcomes demonstrated that charter school education had the greatest POSITIVE impact on students who some are quick to label as “disadvantaged” – those who are racial minorities, still learning English, in poverty or require “special education.”

In New York City, the newly elected far-left mayor, Bill de Blasio, had to backtrack and apologize for his initial attack on charter schools after thousands of low-income minority parents rose up in protest. The Washington Post observed, “[Mr. de Blasio] is correct in saying they aren’t the silver bullet to fixing public education, but they play an important role, and it’s illogical to deny them the support merited by their importance to poor and traditionally neglected students.”

Those who say that charter schools harm poor children, or children with special needs, are either speaking out of ignorance or willfully not telling the truth. Education reform is the single greatest issue facing Cayman. The seriousness of the debate demands that we must not allow the conversation to be hijacked by the ill-informed or those parroting liberal dogma.

We would contend that anyone arguing for the status quo in Cayman schools is not advocating in the best interests of Caymanian students. Minister Rivers has taken an important first step speaking out for major reform. There are many more steps on this path to a better future for our children.

As a small island nation, let’s begin the march for excellence and high academic achievement – for every student in every school.
 

1 COMMENT

  1. We need to do something now rather then later. We have not been successful for a long time. Let’s try something better that has proven itself.

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