Our fellow PolitiChick, Barbara Cook, wrote an article recently describing the trials and tribulations of being a public school teacher. She describes what she has to put up with in the public schools in 2013 (it’s not pretty) and wonders when parents are going to “rise up and be responsible and involved in their child’s education”.
Then we have the Atlanta Public School scandal. Thirty-five educators, including teachers, principals, testing coordinators, other various administrative and support staff, as well as the former superintendent of the schools have been indicted for cheating. Yes, cheating. They changed student test scores to show improvement where there was none, thus enriching themselves monetarily from bonuses as well as achieving a reputation and national respect that they did not deserve. The students, on the other hand, were cheated out of help that they could have qualified for if their test scores had been reported accurately. As for the taxpayers, it’s easy to see what the millions of dollars we pour into our public schools are getting us.
I have some experience in the public school system. Besides being a public school graduate myself, my own children attended the local public school system for several years before my husband and I decided to homeschool them. During that time, I volunteered on their elementary school campus and served as a PTSA board member. Since my fourth and last child graduated from homeschooling, I have been substitute teaching and tutoring in my local school system, the tenth largest in the country. Based on what I have seen, I’m sure Ms. Cook could have shared much, much more.
I agree it is time for parents to rise up. I think it is also time for teachers and ordinary taxpayers to rise up. We need something better than what Clark Howard calls a “monopoly Soviet-style public education system.”
John Stossel created a buzz in 2006 with his 20/20 documentary called, Stupid in America. In it, he compares American students with international students, using above average high school students from New Jersey and comparable students from Belgium, giving them parts of an international test. According to Stossel, “the Belgian kids cleaned the American kids’ clocks and called them stupid.” Are American kids really just that much less intelligent than European kids? Not necessarily, says Stossel, noting that, “At age 10, American students take an international test and score well above the international average. But by age 15, when students from 40 countries are tested, the Americans place 25th.” Stossel goes on to make a case for a system of education where the educational (government) dollars follow the student and schools have to compete for students.
Parents, teachers and taxpayers need to demand a free market and choice in education. Get the government education bureaucrats out of it; they have had their chance. People do not all learn in the same way and a one-size-fits-all system cannot meet the needs of all students. Let innovators and business people and others who love kids, teaching, and learning start educational endeavors. This is America – look what we have done over the years by letting entrepreneurs experiment, try and fail, and try and succeed. It’s time to step back, roll back the multitude of rules and regulations that govern how education must be done in this country and let people with new, or even the old, tried and true, ideas create educational programs and institutions that fit our 21st century society and meet the varied needs of today’s students.
But what if they fail? Some attempts to create new and innovative educational programs will fail. In a free market, that is what happens. Other programs rise up to take the place of the failed ones. And, seriously, what if they fail?? What is happening now, in a world where eighty percent of New York City high school graduates have to take remedial classes in reading, writing, and mathematics before they can enter community college? Is that not failure? The school system has these students for thirteen years and they can’t read, write and compute well enough to take community college classes? And don’t think this isn’t happening in your public school system. Just try talking to a student who got A’s and B’s throughout high school but could not score high enough on the FCAT to actually get a diploma.
Competition in education will not only benefit students, it will benefit teachers as well. Good teachers (you know who you are!) will be in demand. High demand increases prices, or, in the case of valuable employees, salaries. Good teachers will get paid what they are worth, and poor teachers (we know who they are, too, but we can’t fire them!) will hopefully find another occupation.
I’m with Clark Howard on this. I’m an extreme advocate of school choice, vouchers, and free market education, whatever you want to call it. I spent twenty years homeschooling our four children, and I loved it and am very happy with the results, but I know that not everyone wants to do that or has the ability to homeschool. What parents need is the ability to choose the most appropriate educational setting for their children, and not just by being able to afford a home in the right school district. We demand choice and excellence in almost every other area of our lives. Why settle for monopolistic mediocrity in the education of our children? Parents, teachers, taxpayers, and students rise up and let your voices be heard – you deserve better.