I got exasperated with attempts to respond to Tom's comments in that tiny comment box Blogger gives us; hence, a brand new entry.
Below are specific questions I have chosen from Tom's commentary which, per usual, is thought provoking.
"Then explain to me what it is that government-run schools do that would cause a parent to WANT to send their child to a government-run school as opposed to a private school of THEIR choice."
1. The schools are too big and their kids get lost in the crowd.
2. The parents don't agree with the values (or lack thereof) being supported in public schools.
3. The parents want "better" education for their children either because they believe the schools are really bad or because they want their children eventuall to attend elite colleges.
4. The parents believe public schools cannot give their children the kinds of services they need.
"When government runs the school system, does that not undermine its ability to be an unbiased regulator of the same school system?"
Do you consider a School Board "government"?
I think of school as separate from government except when government interferes with anything more than budget. In some ways, I am not sure I think of the state Department of Education as "government" though technically it is a government agency. From the teaching and parent perspective, most of what I have heard from the DOE in VA is curriculum related. The federal DOE is different since it is involved with student aid via accreditors. Higher ed is a mess that way, and the various layers need major overhaul IMHO.
"What need demands that we have government-run schools?"
Inequity in socio-economics has created a need for public schools. Private schools could widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Conversely, so can public schools if there is too much investment in one district and not enough in another. We see this disparity when we compare inner-city schools and more affluent suburban schools. However, we can petition government to fix these disparities when the school is under the Department of Education, a public entity. A private entity would not have much incentive to fix the inequity.
Furthermore, private organizations often do not have the resources or combined efforts of various groups that public schools do have. This is not the case in all private schools, of course, but I've seen, for example, Catholic schools that fit this description. As a matter of fact, we had fewer electives available when I attended Catholic school. Public schools had amazing arrays of offerings for all academic levels. Students who chose AP courses received just as competitive an education as those in the better private schools.
"What do we trade off when we have government-run schools as opposed to private schools?"
1. The ability to implement our personal belief systems into the larger system and curriculum.
2. Smaller schools if that is what we really want (I know I do).
3. Taxes as opposed to tuition.
4. Less ability to know our children's teachers on the same level we would if our children attended smaller, private schools.
I await your reply, sir, though I may not be able to respond until later tonight or tomorrow.