Thursday, May 23, 2013
Gov. Paul LePage continued his effort to promote school choice today by employing an old governor's trick – designating a special day.
LePage proclaimed July 31, 2012 as “Milton Friedman Day.” The influential free-market economist was born 100 years ago today and died in 2006. In his proclamation, LePage emphasized Friedman's support for school choice, something LePage says would boost student performance in Maine.
But a close look at LePage's own press release suggests it's a little more complicated than that. Here is what the news release says:
Maine’s educational goals align with Friedman’s vision: all children should have the right to the highest-quality schools possible. Research suggests that providing children with multiple schooling options improves academic performance.... Friedman’s ideas have also helped lead to positive education reform in countries such as Chile and Sweden.
Did you say Sweden?
Last week, LePage cited a Harvard University study of student achievement test trends in 41 states and 49 countries as evidence of Maine's failing education efforts. He noted that Maine's rate of improvement was among the slowest among the states studied. (He also drew criticism for saying this: "I don't care where you go in this country -- if you come from Maine, you're looked down upon.")
In that same Harvard study, Chile had the second fastest rate of improvement in test scores among the countries studied. Friedman's ideas at work? Maybe. However, Sweden was dead last among the nations and actually saw its test scores drop at a dramatic rate, according to the study. Probably not the best model for school choice in Maine.
To be fair, the Harvard study doesn't say anything about which states and countries have the best education systems, only which ones had the biggest improvements in certain test scores from 1995 to 2009. And there clearly is a lot more going on behind the numbers than Friedman and school choice, or the lack of choice.
In any case, Happy Milton Friedman Day.Tweet
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