Are education reform attempts in this country actually doing more harm than good? On April 28th, 2009, President Obama clearly stated that the “No Child Left Behind Act” was not fixing the gap in education. This legislation has had eight (8) years to prove it’s worth and has failed miserably.
Let’s look at a few things the legislation does…
States are forced to participate in a Federally imposed education program or face giving tax money collected from their State to another State who chooses to participate. This puts the State who chooses not to participate at a loss for education revenue because it’s constituency is paying for the Federal program whether the State wants to participate or not. Essentially, the States must comply or they lose revenue that should be rightfully theirs to begin with. On top of that obstacle, the State must then raise State taxes on it’s constituency to pay for it’s own education program.
This is no small amount of money we are talking about either. Currently, the Federal government collects nearly half-a-trillion dollars a year in taxes to fund NCLB. As a nation-wide average, this represents approximately ten (10) thousand dollars per student, annually. These NCLB compliant schools under-perform, but still complain that they are underfunded. Yet, many private schools who have no State or federal funding operate at approximately half the cost per student on an annual basis while achieving higher academic standards and fewer drop outs.
Aside from the financial impact of this Federal legislation, there are the teacher, student, and classroom aspects to consider. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Kennedy & McCain) lowered the passing percentage to 40 so more students would pass. This means that you can still pass if you don’t understand 60% of the material in the NCLB test. What kind of standard is that? Is understanding the material in this test important or not? I’ve heard teachers complain that they have to spend all their time preparing students for this test and how important it is for their school that the children can pass these tests. Yet, not understanding 60% of it is okay? Lunacy!
Okay, enough ranting, let’s problem solve.
First, and foremost, the Federal Government shall not impose a tax, nor divert any Federal funds for the purpose of the general education of the nation. Under the tenth amendment to the United States Constitution, all power is granted to the States that is not specifically granted to the Federal Government by the United States Constitution, or is expressly forbidden by the Constitution. Since education is not specifically mentioned as a Federal obligation to it’s citizenry, this falls under the authority of the States.
On the other hand, the Federal Government does have a responsibility promote the general welfare and make sure that certain parts of education are standardized among States, ensure political agendas do not enter the classrooms, and ensure grants and scholarships are distributed property. This should not require more than one oversight committee consisting of ten (10) people to take care of problems that arise. Each committee person should be able to oversee five (5) different States’ Education Departments thus eliminating funding a Federal bureaucracy of education.
As you can see, the Federal Government DOES have a role to play in the education of it’s constituency, as do the States. However, as the Federal Government’s role in education increases, so does the funding to maintain the bureaucracy to micromanage the entire system. This is money that is ‘rightfully’ the States’ to collect and distribute for the educational purposes of it’s own populace. The Federal Government should have no right to take money from one State and re-distribute it to another State’s education program. Okay, enough ranting about Federal waste, extortion, bribery, and thievery of State funds, let’s move on to State responsibilities in regards to public education…
Education is extremely important because ignorance leads to criminal activity, violence, terrorism, under or unemployment, and allows a person to be easily deceived. So, State Government should have the power to impose a reasonable tax upon it’s constituency for all public educational facilities, employees, and equipment used within the State. We, as States, either pay for education where it is lacking, or suffer the consequences of underachievement and societal degradation as a nation as a result.
As opposed to the public education system, private and home schooled children decrease the collective overall tax burden for public education by not using public resources while still meeting the States’ educational requirements. In fairness to these individuals, States should adopt a policy of allowing individuals who either privately or home school their children a tax return or credit, for no more and no less than, the amount that was their contribution to the State’s education program until such time their last child graduates from 12th grade. The actual savings amount would be modest which would ensure that ‘artificial costs’ do not arise as could potentially happen in a ‘voucher situation’.
To effectively control the administrative costs of public education, we must first remove some “education administrators” which means we must define jobs.
- Federal Education Oversight Committee consists of 10 people responsible for 5 States a piece. The main focus should be limited to grades K-12. These 10 people are responsible for making sure that certain nation-wide standards are set and updated for educational basics K-12th grades to be taught in all States, they are responsible for making sure grants and scholarships are used correctly within the States themselves, and that no State violates anyone’s “right to an education”.
- The State Department Of Education should be funded by the State and staffed according to State populace. This department is responsible for finding the brightest and most qualified teachers and professors to submit testing material to be organized into State wide tests to be distributed to schools. All testing material should be subject to scrutinizes by the Federal Education Oversight Committee, the State DOE, and the School Board (after testing). This department is responsible for all educational monies for grades K-12, including verification of individuals claiming a tax credit for State approved private-home schooled children. This department also settles or forwards disputes to the Federal Education Oversight Committee for review or action.
- School Boards should be presided over by the educational facility’s principal, chaired by the vice principal, and consist of volunteer parents and teachers alike. The school’s principal should have the final say in matters pertaining to the school aside from objections by the State Department Of Education. However, all matters should be attempted to be resolved through the School Board.
As you can quickly see, a bureaucracy of administrators has disappeared and been replaced by a common sense structure that should allow teachers to gain higher wages and better benefits, without the need of unions, by eliminating administrators and superintendents that eat resources via inflated salaries. There are checks and balances within the system to ensure stability and updating of test materials. This allows for principal, teacher, and parent to voice opinions, concerns, suggestions, and/or to report violations. Which brings me to the next topic,. testing…
Testing is the only way the Federal and State government can gauge progress in teachers, in students, and in schools. If a majority of students test poorly in a certain subject, it’s likely that the teacher is at fault. If all of the students in a school do poorly, it’s likely that it’s time for a new school principal with new ideas. If you have a majority of students excelling in a certain subject, that teacher may deserve a raise-promotion. Likewise, a good school principal deserves a raise and/or promotion to the State Department of Education to help develop better teaching techniques.
In teaching, there needs to be an emphasis on the difference between FACT and THEORY, especially considering the impact that testing has on what people accept as “reality”. While it’s obvious that provable facts should be taught and tested on, what is actual ‘provable fact’ and what is ‘theory’ seem lost in translation anymore. Non disputable subjects include: mathematics, reading, writing, the English language, and grammar skills. I refer to these as “safe subjects” because they leave no room for interpretation. You either understand how 2+2=4, or you don’t. You can either read English, or you cannot. You can either write legibly, or you cannot, and so forth.. However, there are highly controversial subjects such as science, government, history, and literature that have taken “theory” to “fact” without taking the proper steps.
For example : Science has advanced evolution from theory to fact without truly being able to prove anything. This is contrary to the very nature of science itself which ‘was’ to try to understand how and why things work… then duplicate them so they become proven fact. This does not mean that only “safe subjects” should be tested, but it does suggest that theory and fact should be emphasized in any standardized test either in the question or answer itself… which leads me to the subject of test results….
As a parent, one of the most effective ways to make sure your child does not fall behind is to go over his/her test results and make sure you child understands the material. Failing a test is no big deal, but never understanding the material your child needs to know leads to a snowball effect of failure and disinterest. Therefore, if a State and/or Federal test is imposed, all test questions and results will be disclosed to the legal guardian(s) of child(ren) tested. By having a copy of the test along with the results, a parent can review the material with the child, identify problem areas easily, see how their child ranks State and/or nation wide, review State and/or Federal testing standards, and ensure testing remains non-politically motivated and that FACT and THEORY remain separate entities.
Teachers, especially ones who truly care, are over-worked and underpaid. Why? Because superintendents make $500,000/year, administration is padded with people making six (6) figure incomes while the people on the front lines get screwed. Then an international union comes along looking for that guaranteed government money that they will collect from teachers who have watched the bosses screw them. This can truly be solved by offering teachers substantially more money or employing more teachers and decreasing class size. Perhaps they would not feel the need for unions anymore? Just a thought…
I will admit, there are probably things I, unintentionally, may have missed in this post on education reform, but I would like to see less government and bureaucracy in schools and more learning.