Most public schools are fine, the ones that are not are concentrated in the poorer urban areas.
One of the most important things to know about education reform, is that the status que is basically racist because it discriminates against minorities. Poorer citizens, particularly blacks and hispanics, don't have the wealth necessary to be able to send their children to alternative schools on their own. Only through a voucher system can these poorer citizens get the same kind of school choice that has always been available to richer people.
A school voucher system would vastly improve our public education system. The competition to attract students, and the tuition money that comes with them would cause the schools to prioritize teaching. In reality this is in large part the reason why public schools in wealthy neighborhoods are so much better than public schools in poor neighborhoods. The public schools in rich areas still have to compete with private schools, because even without vouchers, rich parents are capable of sending their kids to a private school. If we gave poor parents the same level of school choice, then public schools in poor areas would also improve. Go about 10 minutes into this video for a discussion on schools.
Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio shut down some of the best schools that blacks and hispanics had access to, and he did it in the name of improving education. Improving education for white students maybe, but certainly he didn't improve it for black kids by shutting down their only access to a good school. See the news story here.
Its obvious from his actions that he considers blacks and hispanics to be second class citizens. Even though blacks and hispanics make up a huge percentage of the Democrat party base that elected him, a few union bosses drop some cash in his election fund and he throws minority voters aside in favor of the rich donors.
One of the major problems with our inner city schools is the amount of corruption and embezzlement in these areas. Because these schools have no pressure from competition they feel free to divert money into lining the pockets of school administrators instead of using that money to teach the kids. One of the most laughable objections to a school voucher program is that they do not want people making a profit on education. Guess what? people are already making obscene profits on education. Here are some examples:
A California school district pays an administrator $600,000 a year for managing only four schools. They also give him a million dollar loan at interest rates well below market rates. At the same time these four schools are unable to pay for simple office supplies, and are pressuring teachers to pay for paper and pencils out of their own pockets. Cut his pay to a generous $200,000 a year (more than California's Governor makes) and you would have $100,000 a year for each school to buy office supplies. That's a lot of office paper!
A New York School Principle gets paid overtime, while only showing up a few days a week. When she does show up, she shows up after midday.
If you look at how much money we are spending on public schools you will be astonished that schools are so bad.
Average spending on students is approximately $12,000 a year. In some states like New York, the average per student spending can be as high as $17,000 per year. Look at a class of 30 students. You would have on average $360,000 per class. The teacher only gets on average around $45,000 of that. Are we really spending $315,000 just for the classroom and equipment? No, much of that money is disappearing due to corruption and embezzlement or just government waste.
Give that same $12,000 dollars a year per student to a private company that is motivated to work efficiently and you could have some incredibly good schools. There would still be people making a profit off of our kids education, but at least it would be the people that are providing a GOOD education, instead of the ones giving them a BAD education.