Analogies used to be one of the foundations of the SAT test, and continue to be fun and useful to this day. So when reading this article about health insurance, I was reminded of a similar situation involving charter schools.
You see, it is apparently popular to point out that insurance is currently very cheap for a young, healthy person who exercises and eats right and keeps enough cash on hand to cover medical emergencies. Normally I would say, hallelujah, that’s excellent news for me! But of course then I remember – that means that millions of people with cardiovascular or respiratory disease, diabetes, or other conditions can’t get insurance at all. And then I’m willing to pay a little more so they can get covered. Not everyone is so thrilled about this idea, but if a person lacks compassion, no amount of blog posts will substitute for it.
A similar case is being made by those who endorse charter schools. What do I mean? It’s very, very easy to educate students who are essentially educating themselves, or whose parents are fully involved. As I’ve said before, if I were allowed to run a school that could choose its own students, require parental participation as a prerequisite for acceptance, and had the authority to expel students for a short but comprehensive list of behaviors known to decrease academic performance (mostly related to substances, attendance, or procreation), I bet I can get stellar results for a lot less money than the current school system.
But what happens to the kids I kick out or don’t accept? Of course they go back into the public school system, a system that now has less money and a higher concentration of more challenging students. And my school looks even better as a result! However, there is a societal cost related both to the uneducated and uninsured. We pay it in emergency room visits and medical bankruptcy, on the one hand, and welfare and law enforcement spending, on the other. Watching graduation today, I saw a lot of students who I know cost the school district more time and money than the average. But making sure even they received a quality education despite the challenges in their lives is not only a requirement of basic societal decency (though it is that), but also a smart investment looking at the long term cohesion and productivity of our society.