Educating the next generation of Americans is an existential issue. Currently, we are losing the educational battle. The nation with the top record for educating its children is … China. The United States falls back to the 25th position.
There can be no other conclusion than that the American public school system is failing … period, full stop. Republicans (conservatives) and Democrats (progressives) differ on the reason, but that debate does not change the bottom-line fact. Kids attending public schools are either inadequately educated or inappropriately educated. And this is particularly true in the segregated communities in the major Democrat-controlled cities.
(By the way … as much as those on the left complain that I always slam the Democrats, it is a FACT that the Democratic Party has ruled over our segregated and oppressed urban minorities for generations. They have been in charge of the worst public school systems for generations. And that is an easily proven fact.)
In terms of solutions, Democrats offer basically one. More money. And more money.
No examination of the history of education in America establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that money is NOT the problem. In fact, no matter how much more the taxpayers pour into public education, the conditions and results get worse. School systems with much less money – and even lower teacher salaries – tend to outperform the public schools on every measure.
So, what is the real problem? The 500-pound gorillas in the room are the education unions – the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Their primary goal is membership, money, political influence and personal enrichment. What happens to the kids in the classroom is of secondary importance – if even that.
I know that because I have been intimately involved in contract negotiations with both the Chicago and the Detroit Boards of Education. I can say that at no time did the unions propose or agree to anything that helped the children unless it had a huge benefit for the growth of the union.
The first problem is that the unions grab off virtually all new money coming into the schools. In some cases, the wage and benefit settlements – and the demands for more teachers in shrinking school systems – have consumed more than all the new money. That meant money for the classrooms had to be CUT.
The unions protect incompetent teachers and administrators. These are quasi-political jobs – patronage for the Democrat political machines. This is especially true in the segregated communities in our major cities.
The school unions operate as an arm – and money source — of the ruling Democratic Party. Every student is a transfer vehicle for the millions of dollars that flow to the teachers … to the unions in the form of dues … to the pension plans that wield enormous political power … and to the campaign coffers of the Democratic Party and Democrat candidates.
The second major problem with the current public-school systems is government control of real estate. We should not have to argue that where the government is responsible for real estate, corruption blossoms like dandelions in an unattended garden. The corruption starts with the acquisition of the land, and the construction of the buildings – and continues on to unionized maintenance and procurement, and protection of supplies.
I mention “protection” of supplies because of my experience in Chicago. The Chicago school system was the ongoing victim of the costliest thievery in the city. Millions of dollars in school supplies and food are routinely “taken home” by staff. One union official openly bragged about building an addition to his home from construction supplies stolen from the school system inventory.
That is a scheme that has been going on for generations – but was perfected and implemented by the unions. It is the reason that the folks in city halls do not end the segregation and oppression of black students. That is why they keep them trapped in underperforming schools year after year. Each student being warehoused in a public school is money for the union and the politicians. It is the source of their power and their profit. Keeping minorities confined and impoverished is central to keeping them voting Democrat.
Major elements of the public school system have become hopelessly corrupted by politics and greed. But there is one rather simple and quick way to correct the situation. It is called school choice.
The left proffers the theory that public commitment to education (a good thing) can only be accomplished in government-owned buildings. That is part of the corruption.
Through school choice, we can maintain our commitment to the education of our children while shedding corruptive influences. It takes the money out of the control of the unions and the Democratic Party and places the responsibility in the hands of parents. It allows parents to get their sons and daughters out of the failing school.
Will it undermine the local public schools? Absolutely. The public school would have to compete or close. School choice would be the greatest motivation for public school reform – more than the empty promises that are attached to every new request for “more money” for an ever-failing system
Critics often argue that taking taxpayer money to parochial schools would violate the separation of church and state. That is a red herring. The same folks that proffer that specious argument are often the same folks who LOVE the Pell Grant program by which students are allowed to direct public funds to the college of their choice – even parochial schools.
So, why are the lower grade schools so different. It is the unions – fighting school choice as if it would destroy public education, when, in fact, he would only root out the cancer. What they really fear is destroying the unholy alliance between the unions and the politicians. School choice gives the kids a chance – and that should be the only issue.
So, there ‘tis.