As our society continues to expand its commitment to equality . . . extending entitlements and enlarging their financing . . . it becomes ever more important to be sure they are operated successfully. The social commitment is important, but not sufficient. The services and programs must also be effective and economical.
How to create a social market that works is the subject of this little booklet; Howard Davies' summary of his experience as controller of The Audit Commission in Britain. The Commission was created to add a value-for-money dimension to the financial audit of local governments in England and Wales. I evaluated every service in every jurisdiction every year.
Davies' central message — that these operating systems should be arranged to be "continually in search of efficiency gains and quality improvements" — sets one of the most important challenges for Minnesota and for other states as they design the systems for education, for housing, for child care, for transportation, for public welfare — and certainly for the medical/hospital system.
It can also be viewed as a PDF (here).
Copies of the softcover revised 2018 edition are available on Amazon
By itself neither deploring the problem nor reaffirming the goal makes anything happen. To solve a problem and to reach a goal, to get a system restructured or a new idea passed into law, there has to be a How.
This book is about how one American state successfully reinvented its regional governance . . . revised its public finance . . . reorganized its hospital system . . . is re-forming its public education and reconceiving its system of urban transportation.
It is hopeful about our public sector. But the story it tells is clear: Politics can't do it alone. Government needs a strong civic sector to push elected officials to think about the causes of problems, and to provide them radical but implementable strategies for policy action.
Unhappily, our civic infrastructure today might not be up to the job at the state and local level where that has to happen. This description of its essentials, this analysis of its successes, shows what will be needed to revive that essential civic dimension of public life.
Available on Amazon
What are charter schools like? It depends on which ones you mean.
In 1991, Minnesota created the charter option in an effort to create different, more effective ways of providing public education and to offer more choices to families. In its first twenty-five years that option has spawned a vibrant and growing second sector of public education in Minnesota and in much of the rest of the country.
This report from The Center for Policy Design looks at the chartering landscape in Minnesota, and specifically at innovations — in governance, schooling models and instruction, school evaluation and accountability, management, operations, and authorizing — across the charter sector.
It can be viewed as a PDF (here).
Hard Copies & Kindle Version on Amazon
This is a challenging but a hopeful book. Its author - involved for more than 30 years with education policy and politics at the local, state and national level – insists this country could be getting a lot more than it is from both its students and their teachers. But not with the current, conventional, 'theory of action'. It is a mistake to go on only pushing for performance; assuming public education can be better without school having to be different. It is necessary and it is possible to make 'school' different. No one is going to 'blow the system up and start over'. But this now-inert system can open to new approaches to learning and new forms of school. Innovation, gradually spreading and steadily improving, is systemic change. That is the way successful systems change. This new 'theory of action' will turn education into a self-improving system. The Split-Screen Strategy explains how that can be done with a strategy that creates a 'climate of encouragement for innovation', opening the way for schools and teachers to try things. This different approach asks educators - and our policy leadership - to rethink the notion that change is 'something the boss does' . . . to consider how differently teachers would behave and how they would change school if they had truly professional roles . . . how much better students would learn if school were organized to maximize motivation . . . how much more effective the national government would be if presidents made their proposals not to Congress but to the legislatures in whose law the education system exists. Endlessly deploring the problems and endlessly reaffirming the need to 'do better' does not move anything ahead. We need to get education changing the way successful systems change. The book explains what boards of education can do, what state legislatures and governors can do. It sets out dramatically different roles for the national government - and a surprising role for teacher unions.
UNSUSTAINABLE is written as a long policy memo to decision-makers, and has been used by state legislatures as part of shaping their education agendas. The book argues for improving the cost and effectiveness of public schooling through a strategy of innovation targeting productivity. The book provides policy recommendations targeted at state, district, and federal levels. It outlines strategies for overcoming some of the most difficult political, practical, and structural roadblocks to improvement.
Available on Amazon.