Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Working from the Montana Economic Minute that aired on KGVO’s Montana Morning on Monday taking the state’s public education system to task, Patrick Barkey, Director of the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research answered several questions from the Talk Back audience on that topic.

Barkey began by stating that the state’s public education system ‘needs an overhaul’.

Barkey said Montana's Public Schools need 'an Overhaul'

“What we've had really since about the 1920s when universal education really took over, I would argue is in need of an overhaul,” began Barkey. “But, I think what we have right now really does depend on guidance from above, if you will, and I think the accountability of that system is not there.”

Dr. Barkey said the continuing discussion about public education is proof that the system needs updating.

“We’ve got to start from the observation that if everything were working fine in the sense that outcomes of education were globally competitive, I think we'd be having a different kind of discussion,” he said. “I wouldn't say that this idea of introducing more choice in schools is out of desperation. But there should be a little more desperation in discussions about education, and less complacency.”

Barkey said the Proof in Public Education will be the Workforce it Produces

Barkey said the eventual outcome of a successful education system is reflected in the workforce it produces.

“I think there's room for improvement in education,” he said. “I think that's the point at which I think everyone should agree on. I think the volume has turned down a little bit on this discussion and more money used to be all about student-teacher ratios and all that sort of thing. But there's less evidence that pure spending per se, is the driving force in educational outcomes. I think it has more to do with the responsiveness of the system, to the demands of parents and students and ultimately employers for what the outcomes are.”

Barkey said Some Form of School Choice is the Best Choice for the Future

Barkey said some form of school choice for Montana parents is the best choice for the future of public education in Montana.

“The world in which I'm thinking about is one where choice becomes the dominant mode of providing education,” he said. “The reason why I like it and the reason why I think it's worth considering is that A, our current system is not working very well, and B, this gives an incentive. This gives a mechanism where underperforming schools are essentially driven out of business by the choice and the mobility of parents sending their kids elsewhere.”

Barkey said he is now preparing for the upcoming spring and summer presentations from the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

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