E-Newsletter No. 40 ______ April 2017
In last month’s newsletter, we began a discussion about the unintended consequences of the federal government’s involvement in Education – – massive increases in spending, coupled with declining results. These unintended results are occurring at both the elementary / high school level and the post-secondary level. Although the problem of declining results is similar, the discussion of the various issues and how best to move forward need to be addressed separately.
Elementary / high school education is a purely local issue. The students, the parents, and the teachers are all local. In most regards (other than questions about finances and funding) K-12 education isn’t even a state-level issue. Our Editorial Board believes that the federal government has virtually no role to play in local education issues. As we noted last month, the federal government’s initial foray into the realm of public education was probably OK, because it was limited to collecting and disseminating “best practices” information to the States. Unfortunately, starting with the Head Start program in 1965, and followed by innumerable programs since then, the federal government began increasing its influence at the local level by providing funds to local school districts to advance these federal programs. By “purchasing” this influence, local schools are, in effect, held hostage by these federal dollars.
The federal government should no longer attempt to micromanage the delivery of K-12 education. Unfortunately, for many decades, progressive theories and the resulting federal programs have served to undermine traditional K-12 education, and education bureaucrats have taken control away from the local community. Parents, local school boards, and the teachers in the classrooms, need to come together to reverse this trend and put student-focused innovation ahead of top-down regulation. The answer to improving results at your local school is parental involvement and local control. We also need to re-direct moneys away from the federal government, and have it flow directly to Parent-Teacher Associations and other local nonprofit organizations that have been established to support local education. As we recommend in The 2020 Initiative, this can be accomplished by making changes to the federal income tax code, whereby taxpayers would receive a direct tax credit (rather than a deduction against income) for contributions made to organizations that have been established to support local education.
Our Editorial Board has a great deal of respect and appreciation for public school teachers, who play a vital role in the development of young adults. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same thing about the various teachers’ unions, who appear to be solely focused on the wants of the union, rather than the needs of our country’s students. Not surprisingly, teachers’ unions are passionate opponents of school choice, charter schools and vouchers.
We would like nothing more than to have all of our public schools succeed and return to the high levels of quality outcomes that were achieved in the past. But if a particular school is failing its mission, we support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high-quality alternative. Ultimately, it is a matter of parental involvement to decide the best alternative for their child. School choice simply means having the freedom to choose between the local public school, a charter school, a private school, homeschooling, or some other alternative. We must be able to provide students in failing schools the opportunity to find a better alternative. School vouchers should be available to any student who resides in a district that is deemed to be failing.
There is also a growing sense that our public schools have been “dumbed down”, and children who attend failing schools are no longer being adequately educated in the skills that will enable them to be productive individuals once they graduate from high school. Our public schools need to re-focus on teaching the fundamentals of reading, writing, arithmetic, and science. Unfortunately, when a school loses its focus on these basic skills, and begins to devote time to teaching a “politically correct curriculum”, it steals time away from more important subjects, such as history and the US Constitution.
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We close this month’s newsletter with the following news update (because this didn’t get a lot of press coverage this past month). On March 16th, the country’s debt limit was reset to reflect the additional borrowings that have occurred since the debt limit was suspended in November 2015. We have now re-entered that phase whereby the Treasury Department must now manage our country’s debt through “extraordinary measures”. The Congressional Budget Office projects that if the new debt limit remains unchanged, those measures will probably be exhausted (and the Treasury will run out of cash) sometime in the fall of 2017. The following is a link to a concise 4-page report from the CBO about what this all means – https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52465
US Debt Clock – – March 1st – $61,557 per citizen / April 1st – $61,149 Do not get overly excited or overjoyed by this momentary decrease. Our country’s long term financial problems have not yet been fixed.