Schools need to change. No one who is sufficiently aware of the situation should feel content with the state of education in America. The Organization for Economics Cooperation and Development ranks US students 14th in the world, (just behind Denmark, and far behind Estonia), despite spending the 4th most per student. The problem obviously is not a lack of funds. Yet money is very close to the root of this evil.
The trail of money will often lead to the heart of any issue. Public schools receive money whether parents choose to send their children there or not. Even people without children must pay for schools. Here lies the diseased heart of the education system. The same market forces that provide us an unprecedented bounty of shelter, food, and clothing have been replaced with a political bureaucracy. The actual consumers of education (parents and their children) are deemed unfit to vote with their dollars and choose an education that suits them. Thus, the monopoly monster continues to live, and the only standards it must meet are policies and regulations filtered through the bowels of the political system and greased by the dollars of lobbyists.
The ideal solution would be to stop the flow of governmental money to the education sector and destroy this machine, but a century of entrenched bureaucracy, special interest, and a public groomed into dependency will not allow it. Instead, a more tactical approach must be made if American education is to be saved from itself. However, it doesn’t require much cunning, or even creativity; the most practical solutions have already been tested and proved.
Voucher programs and charter schools have existed since the 1980s. Today, thirty years worth of data from programs across the nation have shown far lower costs and better scores. Yet, when they are sporadically implemented, an onslaught of opposition swarms to kill it. It is the dragon Protectionism, rising again to steal a little from the many to give much to the few. Instead of fairly competing for the dollars of parents, the education industry shields itself using the power of law. Education unions donate around $5.4 million dollars to political candidates (95% of them Democrats, above average for labor unions). These unions exert an enormous effort to protect themselves from the horrors of being forced to please customers instead of buying senators.
Opponents paint these solutions as “giving up on public education”. This emotional argument tries to make the odd assertion that public education is worth saving, and implies that there exists only an ignorant wilderness outside of “No Child Left Behind” and other government programs. Should we really be surprised to find that the mechanism that shaped our growth and development as children should have also trained us to revere it well into our adulthood? Consider this nostalgia another reason that this machine should be dismantled, piece by piece.
Competition, that four-letter word, is the antidote to bring down this monster monopoly. The tools to inject it, vouchers and charter schools, have been proving themselves for three decades now. However, anyone who wishes to carry this torch into the darkness must face the servants of Protectionism, and they are well trained in the cruel art of political violence.