Charter Policing

Charter schools. In the state of Kentucky and nationally, they’re all the rage. After so many years of trying make “fetch” happen, Republicans seem to have finally done it.

Just yesterday, the Kentucky Senate voted to approve HB 520, which authorizes the creation of charter schools in the state. Funding for the charter schools would come from the same pot of money that public schools share (a niggling little detail Republicans hid in an “unrelated” budget bill).

On the national stage, Rep. Steve King — the xenophobe, not the author — has introduced HR 610. It would repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, limit the authority of the Department of Education, and establish a voucher program allowing students to use public funds to attend private schools. Fast Times at Rollback High.

Of course, liberals are up in arms. To them, free public K-12 education is sacrosanct. But what if there is some method to the perceived madness of Republicans? What if maybe, just maybe, their “School of Block (Grants)” model could be applied to other public sector services?

The police, for instance. It’s no secret that, in many parts of the country, people aren’t happy with the men and women paid to “protect and serve” them. This is especially true in minority communities. Why can’t we apply the same arguments of choice, quality, and accountability to the FOP that we use with the AFT?

I know, I know — sounds crazy. How would it work? Well, let’s take it step by step.

Choice

Let’s use the invisible hand of the market to improve options and access to quality policing. A public monopoly stifles innovation. Let’s allow public and private police forces to compete. This will bring down the price and increase the quality of our security.

Accountability

If a police officer isn’t performing his/her job to the satisfaction of the community, the community should be able to fire said police officer. This shouldn’t be viewed as a rent-a-cop model of policing (we don’t want to denigrate the dignity of the profession). Rather, it should be considered a sort of “police lease.” Additionally, if crime in a police force’s district is abnormally high, the police force should be held accountable for this outcome (in much the same way that public school teachers are held accountable for the test scores of their students). Merit-based policing.

Innovation

With public policing, the solution to the problem of crime has been providing local police forces with more lethal means of enforcement. And what has that gotten us? The highest incarceration rate of any industrialized country in the world. What if there were a better way? What if we allowed competition between police forces to inspire new methods for preventing crime? Let’s prime the engine of innovation in policing.

Republicans may be on to something with this charter school, public-private hybrid model. Let’s see what it can do for our other publicly-funded services. I, for one, am hopeful.