If you expect a post dealing with the upcoming mid-terms, forget it. With less than a week to go, if people continue to support the most incompetent administration since Buchanan, nothing I can say now will change minds. I’ve given chapter and verse of Biden and his friend’s ability to screw up everything. Either the administration, with the all-out support of its media allies, gets two more years of total government control or common sense prevails. With millions of people already voted, it’s time to move on.
While not the central issue in this election, one problem is increasingly coming to the forefront, the utter failure of our public K-12 education system. Parents observed the performance of public school systems during the pandemic and didn’t care for what they saw. The lack of in-person learning and perceived indoctrination led Glenn Youngkin’s surprise gubernatorial win in Virginia.
The N.A.E.P.’s national assessment confirmed the worst fears of parents. Our kid’s lost substantial ground during the pandemic. If not made up, kids not learning to read or do the math properly may never catch up. Of course, this deficit falls hardest among those already in challenging circumstances.
Learning loss is evident in those losing the most in-person schooling. Public schools, both traditional and charter, were more likely to be remote. On the other hand, Catholic and other private schools were mostly open. The latter group lost little, if any, ground:
The Swedish experience shows school closures were unjustified and keeping them shut unnecessarily. The Swedes, following the data, refused to close their K-12 schools. This courageous stand resulted in no learning loss.
Students suffering extended Covid school closures lost ground, but we must acknowledge public schools weren’t doing well before the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, we spent more and achieved less than other nations:
A Wirepoint study of Illinois schools based on data collected before the pandemic illustrates the point. Statewide only 36% of third graders could read at grade level. If you can read by that grade, learning becomes manageable. If you can’t, it’s hard to learn. The figure for Hispanics is 27%, and only 22% for Blacks. Does anyone think public schools in other states fare much better?
How we stacked up before the pandemic shows we were lagging. The pandemic provided parents with greater awareness of the public school shortcomings:
How did a nation that always valued education and willingly paid for it end up in such a state? In the 19th century, Horace Mann convinced the country to adopt the German system of strict classrooms and grade levels for its public education. While it may be a system to educate societies transitioning from agricultural to industrial organizations, its inflexibility makes it unsuitable today.
Given that children learn differently and career choices abound, comprehensive options make sense. The problem is those in charge of education see no advantage for themselves. Teachers’ unions and administrators use their votes and contributions to elect compliant politicians to maintain systems they favor.
We’ve seen this control in action during the pandemic. The unions and administrators, where they had political power, kept schools closed despite the data showing they should be open. The result is student learning loss.
On top of closed schools, left-leaning teachers and administrators have added dubious lessons to curriculums. Parents are finding things kile the much-derided 1619 project pushed on their kids. These efforts have increased conflict between the entrenched public school regimes and parents.
In most things, providers of goods and services must give the consumers what they want or go out of business. The public school system turns this on its head. How can we turn this mess around? Our children are the consumers of education. Because they’re too young, parents must make the choices.
In so many cases, parents have little choice. Some charter schools may be available, but the good ones often have waiting lists. You may have to win a lottery to get your kid into a good school. Private schools cost money.
The only way to restore a working educational system is to put the consumer in control. Rather than a Soviet-style system where the state tells you what you get, parents have to have the power of choice.
Arizona has shown the way with Educational Savings Accounts (E.S.A.). Each student receives a set amount to spend on the education they choose. This plan puts parents in control of their children’s education. Competition, as in other areas of our lives, gives us choices leading to desirable outcomes.
Years ago, when the Big Three controlled the auto market, they gave us crappy cars with “built-in obsolescence.” Americans had no choice but to accept. When foreign automakers entered our market, everything changed. The result is the excellent, long-lasting autos we enjoy today. E.S.A.s for everyone will do the same for education.
This change will mean doing away with the current public school systems. Tax dollars will flow to parents and then to their chosen education. Private and charter schools will have a little in the way of problem-adjusting. Expanding to meet the demand for success is a good thing.
Good public schools will have every chance to compete, but they won’t be government-favored entities. We’ll have a level playing field.
Costs shouldn’t be a problem. Arizona E.S.A.s provide over $6,000. This amount more than covers a K-8 Catholic school tuition of $5,300. Compare these with the U.S. $16,000+ average public education per year. Plenty of room to put funds where needed.
Of course, the teacher’s unions and administrators will scream bloody murder at their loss of control. Dependent politicians are sure to be in opposition. We must realize that we have no choice but to put parents back in control over their objections to succeed.
The alternative is to continue a system failing to keep up with the rest of the world—constant battles over courses and books. This trench warfare will only hurt our children.
We have no choice but to make these changes A.S.A.P. Our kids have lost too much already. Education has to be a significant 2024 issue. Our future depends on it.