Well - look who came in from the cold! Welcome back, bikermom. Where ya been?
The national scale payment system is an intriguing idea, but there are several problems with it, beginning with the fact that schools are a state issue, and so there are at least 50 different systems for funding and regulation. Then there is the difference in the cost of living. A salary which would be luxurious in Michigan or Iowa might barely be a living wage in a large coastal city like New York or San Francisco. I think that part of the problem in some of the discussions we've had previously about teacher salaries is different perceptions of what is needed in a given economic area.
I don't know if I'm ignorant or deluded, but I have no significant complaints about the educational services provided to my children. Are there things I'd like to change if given the magic wand? Sure. But still, despite disabilities they are each learning fairly well, and are happy doing it. My older son, who is hyperactive and autistic, gets the usual academic instruction, plus physical and language therapy, and social skills training. In the summer, he attends a program - paid for by the school system, including the transportation - which maintains his social and physical skills through things like horseback riding and field trips. His art teacher is so good that three of her students in one AI class of about 8 have already had works accepted for state-wide or national exhibition.
Michigan has a voucher system, and there is a private academy available to us, indeed, it is physically nearer than the public schools, but we have no need of it because the public schools are providing as much and more than the private academy would. I suspect that I would consider the academy if my child was both academically gifted and nondisabled, and that does make me wonder at the drain on the basic level of student from the public schools, but in the end, I think that the freedom of parents to chose between the schools helps maintain the levels of all the institutions. That, indeed, is the premise underlying a competitive economy.
My biggest complaint with the school system is that second languages have not been introduced until well after the prime time for children to learn languages. When I was in school, the first opportunity to learn even a smidgeon of a foreign language was in junior high (7th or 8th grade; ages 12-13-14 for most kids). It seems that schools are exposing children to foreign languages a bit sooner now, but still, since the best years are the early years, it would be nice to start them right away through TV classes.