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Multiple Choice: Expanding Opportunity Through Innovation in K–12 Education

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

A high-quality education can provide immense opportunities for children, but the education system in America today is simply not getting the job done. This was the theme of Wednesday’s discussion at AEI on “Education and Opportunity,” a new book by AEI’s Michael Q. McShane.

What needs to change? In the words of John Chubb and Terry Moe, authors of the landmark book “Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools,” the problem with America’s education system is just that — the system. In its place, McShane envisions a vibrant marketplace of schooling options. However, he makes clear that while necessary, injecting market forces into the education system is not sufficient on its own.

Jeffrey Bailey of the Arete Scholars Fund emphasized that “private doesn’t necessarily mean good.” School choice measures must be combined with the formation of innovative new schools, proper regulatory structures, and pools of talented teachers and staff.

Andy Smarick of Bellwether Education Partners clarified that markets are not magical — they create conditions under which people can find innovative solutions to problems. Ultimately, those solutions are what America’s education system depends on.

Smarick concluded the conversation with a point of caution: “Never take down a fence until you are certain why it was put up.” While seeking innovative new solutions, we must consider which parts of traditional K–12 education should be reformed and which should be protected.