Michigan's system of charter schools is the solution to the problem of insuring quality primary education in America, that state's governor said in a speech at the Graduate School of Education last night.
Speaking before an audience of approximately 100, in a speech titled "Restructuring Government for Better Education," Governor John Engler said semi-public charter schools put the choice of children's education in their parents' hands.
Engler launched a system of state-funded charter schools when he took office in 1990.
"Improving public schooling is the number one policy challenge we're facing today," Engler said, adding that most public school parents are dissatisfied with the quality of education their children receive.
"Today greater than half of all Americans give their local schools a grade of C, D or F," he said.
Engler said charter schools untie the problem of public schools from the traditional local school district.
"Charter schools are independent public schools funded by public dollars," he said.
He added that charter schools require an application, but that admission is purely random, rather than merit-based, giving all interested students an equal opportunity.
"I think [charter schools] are the catalyst for improved performance, lower spending and higher student achievement," he said.
The biggest problem that Engler said he sees with public schooling is the lack of choice that parents and students have in attending a school.
He offered an analogy comparing primary schooling to day care, medical care and pizza, saying that people should have a fundamental right to choose for themselves.
"The systematic denial of consumer choice [in the public school system] is downright un-American," he said.
Having charter schools as an alternative to public schools is, to Engler, a clear solution to this problem.
"Charter schools are to education what Japanese cars were to the auto industry," the Michigan governor said.
He explained that the competition provided by charter schools would increase the options open to parents and students, as well as forcing public schools to work up to their potential.
"I'm saying create choices and let the market work," he said. "Just as G.M., Ford and Chrysler had to adjust to the Japanese imports, so will public education have to adjust to the competition [of charter schools]."
"Changes aren't going to be easy, debate's going to be intense, but it must go on because the kids deserve better," he said.