Remember traveling before September 11th, 2001? If you were a frequent traveler like me, security procedures varied from airport to airport, some more efficient, some more friendly and some were neither. After September 11th, airport security procedures were revamped. Now, when people travel by air in the United States, they are more or less subjected to the same security protocols regardless of the airport. Many people groan about the “security theater” and wish, like me, that our airport security would adopt a smart profiling system to streamline the overall effectiveness and efficiency of our travel experience. And to those who groan – where does the authority and responsibility for the creation, adoption and execution of airline security ultimately lie? As with everything else in a Constitutional Republic, they lie with the voter.
The same authority and responsibility hold true regarding the future of our children’s education. Whitney Houston sings “We believe the children are our future…” and as cheesy as it sounds, she’s right. Our country will only be as good as the generations who are willing and able to uphold her virtues and continue to contribute to society in meaningful ways. People from smaller foreign countries will confirm, education is the way to a better life. And our US education statistics are telling.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the high school graduation rates for 2012 are as follows:
- American Indian/Native Alaskan: 67%
- Hispanic: 73%
- Black: 69%
- Asian/Pacific Islander: 88%
- White: 86%
Is it reasonable to posit here that, at a minimum, high school graduation is necessary for more than 95% of Americans to obtain and retain a job that pays enough to live on? According to Lynn Olson it is. “It is well known that remaining in school at least through high school graduation is vital to staying out of low-wage America. In addition to lower wages, students who do not finish high school are more likely to be unemployed, to end up in prison, to need public assistance, and to die at a younger age.” (Olson, 2006) Basic knowledge of the world around us is the foundation that enables further learning as the years pass. If a student is unable to read, write and perform basic math and financial equations, they are set up to be victims of scams and crime for the rest of their lives. If we want to encourage and enable people to move from the welfare system to become self-supporting contributing members of society, we need to provide them the ability to learn and require them to achieve basic skills before they are promoted to the next grade-level and graduated as an achiever of these basic requirements.
Our education system, as it stands, is facing a crisis and we, the people, are not handling this crisis well.
Take, for example, PS 106 in Queens. In Far Rockaway, Queens, New York, Public School 106 Principle Marcella Sills, is paid a salary of $128,207 per year and her students are watching movies and “have gotten no math or reading and writing books for the rigorous Common Core curriculum, whistleblowers say.” NY Post article. Why does Ms. Sills get away with this behavior? What say you, Queens?
It is easy to point fingers at teachers’ unions, poor curriculum, below-average teachers, disengaged parents and/or burgeoning administration costs as the reasons for these poor results. However, who is ultimately responsible for ensuring quality education for our nation’s children? We, the People. All of the issues listed are contributors to our struggling education system but we, as voters, are not allowed to sit back and say “I can’t change anything.” because you have a voice.
In most areas of the United States, children are zoned to a particular school based on their home address. It can be argued that better schools are better because wealthier families can afford to live in nicer areas where schools perform better. Often, these wealthier families have parents who are better educated and more personally involved in their children’s education. This is an advantage of being “wealthy”. But, is there a better way to help all students receive a higher standard of education while allowing them to still live in areas that are affordable for their parents? The answer is yes – through school choice.
Opening up enrollment to public schools is a first start. My children have the opportunity to attend an excellent school. I have no doubt that the children who matriculate through this school are better prepared for middle school and high school and most of the students who go through these higher grade levels ultimately go to university. What if parents could sign up to put their children in our elementary school even if they didn’t live in the school’s prescribed zone?
Also, allowing the taxpayer money that is collected to pay for education of the young generation should be assigned child to child, which enables parents to determine which type of schooling is best for their student and a benefit to the community overall. Why are taxpayers so comfortable with paying for substandard education at their expense?
Finally, each school and method of delivery should be weighed on its merits and outcomes. Not all public schools are horrific and not all private schools are wonderful. It is the responsibility of the parents, community leaders and community at-large to expect and demand positive, measurable outcomes from every school which receives taxpayer money.
Educating children is beneficial to the children themselves, the community in which they live, and the nation as a whole. Not every student will become a neurophysicist or whatever degree you find most daunting, but every student should be held to high standards and expected to live up to those standards for the benefit of all involved. We, the People, expect an excellent return on our investment but it is up to each of us to ensure that we make our voice heard to receive the benefits we deserve.