June 17, 2011
If you want to fix America, you have to fix America’s broken education system; and you must start by getting rid of the one we have.
I’ve been up in front of too many classrooms in too many different schools, and had lunch in too many different teachers’ lounges, to be wrong about this. I have also sat through more school board meetings, in more towns, and pored over more school budgets, than I care to remember.
Here are a few suggestions for getting out from under the costliest and least effective education establishment in human history.
De-certify the teachers’ unions, like Ronald Reagan de-certified the air traffic controllers’ union. The politics, admittedly, will be difficult, but there are two compelling reasons for doing this.
First, we have an education crisis. Or, to put it another way, the education provided by these unions stinks. And they oppose any reform that anyone has ever thought of. Second—we can’t afford it anymore! Teacher salaries, benefits, and pensions are driving states toward bankruptcy. (The other public employees’ unions are part of this financial crisis, too: but unlike teachers, they haven’t been able to convince anyone that their work is necessary. Nor does Hollywood ever make a movie about the superhuman achievements of a great clerk at the Division of Motor Vehicles. Teachers have always had great P.R.)
Democrat politicians sign sweetheart deals with teacher unions because a big chunk of that money gets kicked back into their political campaigns. So a lot of the money you pay in school taxes goes to elect people who always raise your taxes.
Abolish the U.S. Department of Education. This keepsake from the Jimmy Carter presidency has no business being there. The Constitution gives the federal government no warrant to be involved in education. Do you really want Anthony Wiener having any way to get his hands on your child’s education?
Abolish the state education departments. These nests of wooden-headed bureaucrats and screwball “education” theorists have done infinite mischief. How often I’ve heard local school board members groaning and cursing over the latest unfunded mandate dropped on their heads by the state! No mas, no mas…
Grant absolute autonomy to local school boards—you know, like they used to have. These are people whose constituents live next door to them and run into them at the supermarket. It would be a brave local board member indeed—maybe even a suicidal one—who dared to squander his neighbors’ hard-earned money on “gender coaches” for the kindergarten, or sign a mind-blowing contract with the teachers that allowed them to retire at 55 and spend the next 20 years going on Caribbean cruises while the poor devils who pay for it have to work until they drop. Local board members will also feel pressure to ensure a quality education—far more than any bigwig in Washington or the state capital will ever be exposed to.
Abolish the requirement for teacher certification. Catholic school teachers, for the most part, aren’t certified, and they teach rings around their public school counterparts. Teacher certification programs are nothing but a job bank for the teachers’ colleges, and a final opportunity to indoctrinate would-be teachers into far-Left politics. And you pay for it.
Give tax breaks to parents who home-school or send their kids to private school. America is full of overcrowded, under-performing school districts where the per-pupil cost hovers around $20,000 a year. Some of those schools are a bad joke at best, and a tragedy at worst. It’s inconceivable that parents could be even less successful in educating children. And the high performance statistics of home-schoolers are too well-known and too easily verifiable to allow for any reasonable argument against home-schooling.
Encourage churches to set up in-house schools and courses. Boy, won’t the teachers’ unions love that! Watch them spin their heads around and levitate. But churches are already in position to help congregation members who for one reason or another can’t home-school, and either can’t afford or can’t get access to a decent private school. Churches already have various day-care and after-school care programs. It shouldn’t be hard to build on those.
All of what we are proposing here is tried and true. It’s all been done before. After all, public schooling wasn’t even invented until well into the 19th century.
Surely we can get along without the unions fixed like tapeworms to our paychecks; without a federal Dept. of Education that was only created in 1979; without state educrats forcing local school districts to spend money that they don’t have; without teacher certification programs that are of no demonstrable benefit to anyone but those who provide them; and without failing schools that cost us $20,000 a year per child—where the superintendent and the assorted assistant superintendents have district paid-for cars and credit cards, the kids never learn how to read, and the toilets don’t flush. You’ve all seen such things on the nightly news.
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If even a few of the above recommendations were adopted, we would have better schooling at a lower cost—which guarantees that the teachers’ unions will oppose them all.
Yes, I know—the public schools were better in the days of “Our Miss Brooks,” they weren’t that awful when the kids from “Leave It to Beaver” went there. A couple of decades of teacher certification programs and ultra-leftist union leaders have done their work only too well, and the schools are that awful now.
And it’s time we fixed it.
� 2011 Lee Duigon - All Rights Reserved
Lee Duigon, a contributing editor with the Chalcedon Foundation, is a former newspaper reporter and editor, small businessman, teacher, and horror novelist. He has been married to his wife, Patricia, for 34 years. See his new fantasy/adventure novels, Bell Mountain and The Cellar Beneath the Cellar, available on www.amazon.com