Washington — Secretary of Education William J. Bennett said Tuesday in a speech to the White House Conference on Small Business that America's schools should be run like small businesses, and called for shutting down those schools that cannot deliver what the public wants. ``You know about accountability,'' he told the entrepreneurs. ``You know that if your product isn't good, if your services aren't good, you're going to go out of business. We need something more like that in education.''
Secretary Bennett himself has had no success in trying to sell Congress on the Reagan administration's ideas of giving parents tuition tax credits to help defray the cost of private schools, or vouchers to help the disadvantaged afford a school of their choosing.
But Bennett said the notion of choice is taking hold in several states. The governors of Tennessee, Colorado and Minnesota have advocated more choice among public schools, and it is one of several education issues on the National Governors Association agenda for its meeting next week in Hilton Head, S.C.
Bennett, a former philosophy professor, also believes that schools, like businesses, need strong leaders with ``grit and fiber and muscle and sinew and character,'' regardless of their formal training.
Bennett said he will release a report called ``First Lessons'' on Sept. 2, the day after Labor Day and the traditional start of the school year in most states, calling for giving all children a solid grounding in the basics in elementary school.