Fantasyland

Who knew that the New Republic's Jonathan Chait had such love for the free market? But there he was the other day in the Los Angeles Times, the liberal writer doing his best imitation of F.A. Hayek. He wrote that conservatives are right to deduce from articles such as the New York Times Magazine's recent "What It Takes To Make a Student" (see here) that poor and minority children can be educated at high levels. But, he continues, there is a major shortage of talented and dedicated teachers like those at the handful of top-performing charter schools. Worse, Chait correctly claims, the talent we have is poorly distributed, with many of the worst teachers staffing the highest-need schools. His beef with conservatives? They aren't conservative enough! They glorify the free market yet lose faith in incentives when it comes to paying top dollar for talented teachers, especially those working in low-performing schools. Merit pay is good, but an extra two thousand dollars per year isn't going to attract savvy folks who could easily make six figures working elsewhere. Hiring fewer teachers, only the best teachers, and paying them much more, is probably the way to go. "You can't build a national education strategy around relying on the kindness of strangers," Chait writes. Thus spake the liberal.

"The right's education fantasy," Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2006