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Would you choose a school full of bullies?

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Illustration / Kirk Lyttle / Newscom / File

(Read caption) Bullying has received a lot of public outcry and attention, but few workable solutions. Privatizing all schools would allow parents to choose, and few would choose a school with a reputation for allowing kids to get picked on.

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This article from the local newspaper points out how schools that don’t address bullying might lose federal funding from the Department of Education. I think it’s good that people are recognizing the importance of incentives here, but I think it’s unfortunate that people are looking for top-down solutions. I’m not sure how effective a threat of lost federal funding will be. It will probably result in a lot of programs and initiatives, but I don’t know that it will lead to a serious reduction in bullying.

If there’s a solution, it’s competition. This would make schools accountable to those to whom they should be accountable: the parents and students they are supposed to serve. I predict that in a totally private market for education, schools that have reputations for being places where students are bullied for any reason will lose a lot of business and a lot of community support.

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Here’s an op-ed Mike Hammock and I wrote last summer in which we take on the issue of school competition. We summarize a little bit of the research on charter schools, vouchers, and educational outcomes. In light of the controversy over bullying, a natural extension would be to look at how the introduction of competition of virtually any kind affects discipline problems, bullying, and harassment.

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