In the June issue, I noted that the outcome for Texas public education in the recently completed regular and special legislative sessions could have been much worse, and this includes the state education budget, but there is much more to be done and said on this issue, and I suspect that all we did in this instance was buy a little time and begin to prepare the intensive debate soon to come on the absolutely necessary overhaul of education cost structures and the transformation of delivery systems, because the days of scrambling to finance the existing antiquated model are over–it simply is no longer sustainable.
My friend and policy advisor Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute has written perceptively for years about the need to get serious about productivity issues in public education and has recently said that “the public debate in the past decade has been impoverished by the dearth of tough-minded conservatives willing to talk bluntly about reforming the public sector more broadly”. Now, thanks largely to the Tea Party victories around the country, there are many examples of introductions to reality, most prominently in Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Jersey, but much more needs to be done. Hess makes the further point that education is the only professional sector, with the possible exception of health care, which seems to have had a decline in measurable productivity since the introduction of the personal computer! This must and will change, but only when we have the political will to allow Joseph Schumpeter’s “creative destruction”, the process by which capitalism rewards winners and eliminates losers in productivity enhancement, to work in the public sector. And in this phase of the debate we have only scratched the surface. Stay tuned.