A Failing Grade for America’s Educational System – Tea Party Nation

A Failing Grade for America’s Educational System – Tea Party Nation.

By Alan Caruba

Back in 2001 I wrote a four-part series on “The Subversion of Education in America” and more than a decade later not much has improved. The causes are easily identified. One is federal control and the other is the National Education Association (NEA) which, despite its name, is a union.

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey became a nationally known figure when he took on the teacher’s union for the way contracts with generous pension and health benefits were bankrupting the State. Other civil service contracts also came under review for the same reason.

A recent headline in The Wall Street Journal caught my eye. “No-Child Law Faces Wave of Opt-Outs” reported that “Twenty-six more states asked to be excused from key requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, an exemption that would curb the education law’s impact considerably.” If the Obama administration grants waivers to all the new applicants, three quarters of the states would be exempt.

The federal Department of Education is a legacy of the failed Carter administration, signed into law on October 17, 1979 and given Cabinet level status. Generally speaking, the NEA made sure it was run to suit its purposes, not that of parents and students.

The best thing a new President and Congress could do for America would be to eliminate the DOE, returning the oversight of educational systems to the States. Clearly, when three quarters of them want out from the No Child program, something is very wrong with it.

Indeed, what is wrong is the notion that education is a one-size-fits-all proposition. Any parent and any teacher can tell you that children individually learn at different rates, have individual strengths and weaknesses that require something other than a federal straight-jacket. No Child is a legacy of the Bush43 administration; proof that no matter who’s in charge, education should not be a federal department.

What the federal government does is redistribute money and at a time when it is broke the notion of spending billions it does not have begs the question of who gets to waste it.

In 2010, the government “invested” $3.5 billion “in an effort to fix the nation’s bottom five percent of public schools and in 2011 it spent another $546 million through the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. The funds were available to schools that were “eligible for up to an unprecedented $6 million per school over a three-year period to implement one of four reform models.”

Don’t expect much. It has been known for decades that schools in highly segregated, low-income, urban areas; those with more than half of their students representing African-American and Latino populations are the ones in trouble. Their problems are, as often as not, related to cultural attitudes and language difficulties. The student’s problems begin in their homes and transfer into the classrooms.

Minimum Security Prisons

Our schools have been turned into minimum security prisons with increasingly intrusive policies regarding every aspect of student’s lives, from the lunch they bring to school to proposed intervention in their lives off campus. Pre-school programs, often mandatory, have a long history of failure. Parents are under pressure to transfer their control over the lives of their children to schools. It is authoritarian. It is un-American.

So what was deemed an important DOE priority in 2011? Last year it was crowing about its “Green Ribbon Schools” program “to recognize schools that have taken great strides in greening their curricula, buildings, school grounds and overall building operations.” Slapping some solar panels on the roofs of schools does nothing to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the classrooms below.

As for curricula, it just means more indoctrination regarding phony environmental claims about global warming, melting ice caps, endangered species and other specious science. In April, new so-called science standards from the National Research Council will require students be taught the usual Al Gore version of climate change.

The NEA wants you to know that “the teaching profession has changed dramatically over the past fifty years.” That’s why it is sponsoring National Teacher Day on May 3rd. Astonishingly, the NEA admits that “45% of new teachers abandon the profession in their first five years”; apparently without understanding why.

Part of the answer is the poor quality of education they receive at the university level to prepare them to teach. Part of the answer, as the NEA notes, has to do with the “nearly one-quarter of school districts (that) do not require new teachers to have certification for what they are teaching.” Part of the answer is the union requirement involving tenure, making it nearly impossible to fire an incompetant teacher.

How bad are our nation’s schools despite the federal largess and their “greening”? In a report issued in February, the National Center for Policy Analysis, “Restructuring Public Education for the 21st Century”, noted that “Students in dozens of other countries, including China, South Korea, Germany and Finland, outperformed American students in reading, math, and science, according to the Program for International Student Assessment in 2010.

“The United States ranked 23rd in science, 17th in reading, and—worst of all—31st in math.” The dropout rate nationwide wavers between 30 percent and 40 percent with urban center dropout rates as high as 80 percent.

As for those who do graduate, some 76 percent, those who go onto a college education as often as not must first take remedial courses to bring them to a level where they can begin to acquire a higher education.

What happens then? According to the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, “61 percent of folks with a student loan are not paying” whether they are in school or have graduated. That adds up to an $870 billion outstanding balance, akin in ways to the nation’s mortgage crisis. Will public funds be tapped to “bail out” colleges and universities? Probably.

The nation’s educational systems are imploding from pre-school to kindergarten, elementary to middle to high school. Entire generations are either dropping out or graduating without the skill levels to compete in a world where students in other nations are learning how to run circles around their American counterparts.

© Alan Caruba, 2012


Blitzing the Department of Education – Katie Kieffer – Townhall Conservative Columnists

Seal of the United States Department of Education

Image via Wikipedia

Blitzing the Department of Education – Katie Kieffer – Townhall Conservative Columnists.

Tim Tebow and I both blitzed the Department of Education; we were both homeschooled. Tebow became the first homeschooler to win the Heisman Trophy and he’s now an NFL starting quarterback. And, as someone who was homeschooled through eighth grade and attended a private high school before graduating from college, I personally know that young people don’t need the federal government running their education.

I think American children and their parents deserve more than an unconstitutional, one-size-fits-all federal education system. I think local governments and individual parents have the constitutional right to decide how and where children go to school. Let’s eliminate the Department of Education.

The Department of Education is unconstitutional because it violates the Tenth Amendment, which states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” There is no federal mandate for public education in the Constitution, so no one has a constitutional right to an education subsidized by federal taxpayer dollars.

To be exact, since the Constitution does not mention “education” as a federal function, Congress should have voted to amend the Constitution in order to give the federal government the power to regulate education. Since Congress never amended the Constitution, the federal Department of Education remains unconstitutional.

The Department of Education was initially a minor office within the government. However, President Jimmy Carter decided that he wanted to be in charge of education. So, on October 17, 1979, he signed a law promoting the Department to cabinet-level and placing education under the purview of the executive branch.

Initially, most Republicans understood that Carter’s move was unconstitutional. Carter’s successor, President Reagan, tried to eliminate the Department of Education but the Democrats in Congress blocked him. The CATO Institute reports that in 1996, the GOP’s party platform still included this belief: “The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education.”

After Reagan, some Republicans began swerving off the constitutional path. Former President George W. Bush proposed and signed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. This bill helped double the size of the Department of Education and NCLB’s requirements for federal funding effectively seized more authority from States and individuals.

Today, we have a GOP presidential candidate (Rick Santorum) who voted for the No Child Left Behind Act even as he was unwilling to put his own children through the broken public school system. Politicians like Santorum routinely vote for public school funding and then hypocritically send their own children to private schools or tutor them at home. Every politician wants to say he or she cares about educating children, but, at the end of the day, a child’s parents have his or her best interest in mind.

Because the Department of Education is a federal affair, it’s effectively an unjust tax. 33 million Americans (28 percent of all households) live alone, according to 2011 census data. Why should these solo breadwinners be forced to pay for strangers to get an “education?” There are also millions of families who choose to put their children in private schools or homeschool them. How is it just for these families to pay twice—to educate their children and subsidize the neighborhood children?

I think there is a common misconception that people who send their children to private school or homeschool are über-wealthy and can “afford” to pay taxes for other children to go to public school. Growing up, I remember busybodies asking me, “How can your mom afford to stay home?” Later, when I went to a private high school, the snoops would say: “Oh. Wow. That’s so expensive. What does your dad do?”

My parents were not über-wealthy. They sacrificed a great deal and gave up buying new cars and going on big-ticket vacations so that my siblings and I could get the best education possible. Many other homeschooling and private school parents I knew growing up were the exact same way. As a kid, I remember thinking that it was unjust for my parents to sacrifice and work so hard for my education and to subsidize the next-door neighbor boys’ free ride to public school.

I have no problem with public schools that are managed entirely on a local level. Let’s say there’s a town of like-minded people who want to pool their resources together and build a school: They have a town meeting and the majority of residents—including the retirees and single people in the community—are willing to pitch in funds for a public school. The residents are freely vested in the school’s mission and they will spend their collective funds wisely. That kind of public school is fine by me because it’s locally controlled and 100 percent constitutional.

America’s first public school, in fact, was a perfect example of a local (constitutional) public school. Boston Latin School was established in 1635. It had no national element. It had a strong humanitarian curriculum and students learned how to read, write and multiply—not how to put a condom on a banana. Four signers of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine, attended Boston Latin. (Franklin dropped out before graduating.)

It costs taxpayers over $10,000 per year to educate the average public school student. For zero cost to the state and under $1,000 a year to themselves, parents can educate their child at home and the child will probably have better academic test scores. Last month, USA Today analyzed a 2009 National Home Education Research Institute study revealing that homeschooled students score higher than public school students by an of average of 37 percentile points.

So, besides the fact that the Department of Education is unconstitutional, there is no evidence that more money and federal control invariably produce smarter children. My brother is in medical school now and he was homeschooled through sixth grade.

Some of America’s most successful people were successful precisely because they avoided the federal education system at some point. People like: Tim Tebow, Jason Taylor, Bode Miller, Venus and Serena Williams, Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein, Claude Monet, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, C.S. Lewis, Robert Frost, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Andrew Carnegie and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Let’s help children, parents and taxpayers regain their constitutional freedom. Let’s blitz the Department of Education.