The past few weeks have been difficult ones in Georgia’s efforts to reform its education system. The state is in late stages of debate to pass a resolution allowing for the state to approve certain types of charter schools, and it is incredible how much lobbying has taken place on this issue. And I have learned firsthand that when you decide to throw yourself into the public domain, you better be prepared for dissension, and even some disrespectful personal attacks despite people not knowing your background or the basis for your perspective. I have been called “one of those educational resource suppliers that I’m sure has a big stake in the Charter movement.” Some of the remarks this week are from people who not only have not read the language of the resolution, but whom immediately deduce that the state is looking to move to private vouchers and other radical “school choice” mechanisms.
I have been and will continue to be a proponent of innovation in education. I do not “pander” to charter schools, nor do I approve of many of their stated “missions.” But I do believe in innovation in education, and the Georgia Supreme Court overreached when it said that local school boards had “exclusive control” over any public school in its geographic area. We are talking about certain types of charter schools that are “tuition free,” so we’re not talking about private schools. Further, you can NEVER allow monopoly power if you truly desire an “innovation ecosystem.”
The debate this week has finally culminated in sound minds prevailing, and the compromise language should address the concerns of the vast majority of dissidents. However, there will ALWAYS be politicians who will reject any type of legislation that shifts even an inch away from the “status quo.” They will eventually need to listen to their constituents if they want to remain in office. Change is hard to swallow.
However, Georgia must face the reality it is current experiencing. Our education system must allow new learning models to have a shot at creating the type of learning outcomes that every parent desires. Georgia cannot continue to be a laggard when it comes to educating its citizens for success in the 21st century, digitally-driven environment. It means we need to innovate our learning methods, including both new forms of content creation and also new school designs. Let innovation have a chance, and then integrate the best practices into the existing schools. At the same time, though, don’t expect these innovative models to be an overnight success. Disruptive innovation needs time to work its “magic.”
Change is never easy, but sensible change and
I’d like to conclude this post by offering an excerpt from one of my favorite books, “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas“ by David Bornstein.
With the rise of the welfare state in the twentieth century the fulfillment of social needs came to be seen not only as the government’s responsibility, but one of its primary operational functions. Government, however remained insulated from the pressures and incentives that forced businesses to continually improve their products.
As the romance of charity yields to a health realism that citizen organizations should rise and fall on their merits, the result is likely to accelerate innovation. In a competitive landscape – when rewards follow the best performers – it takes only ONE innovative organization to send everyone else scrambling to upgrade their products and services lest they be left behind.
Finally, Georgia is starting to take the necessary steps, albeit baby ones, to ensure it does not get left behind in the movement to reform its education system.