Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Parental Choice and Local Control: A Cautionary Tale
Swedish schools were once held up as a model. Then came a series of reforms that enabled parents to choose schools via vouchers. This free-market system was designed to provide competition that would vault Swedish education into the stratosphere. Instead, student scores on the PISA plummeted, teacher morale declined, and segregation increased. Instead of a well-balanced system of equivalent schools, Sweden ended up with a mess of haves and have-nots with little oversight of the educational system as a whole save at the city council level. A new OECD report encourages Sweden to go back to the drawing board, to "establish conditions that promote quality with equity," to "support high-quality teaching and learning," and to develop a more nationalized vision of educational priorities. The locally verboten words data and accountability are thrown around a good deal, as one would expect from a think tank. But the disastrous results in Sweden over a dozen years of poorly regulated school choice should be a warning to those who support vouchers and charters.