Thursday, May 20, 2021

Williamson: Whose job is it anyway? Parents vs bureaucrats in educating kids


Whose Job is it Anyway? Parents Versus Bureaucrats in Educating Kids
By Tyler Williamson

A major principle of the school choice movement is that parents should be empowered to choose where and how their children are educated. This is a simple idea: parents are responsible for their children and should direct their education. Many opposed to school choice can’t seem to grasp this. They seem to think it’s the government’s role to educate children and view anything that breaks the status quo as a threat.

In an opinion piece for The Oklahoman, one writer invoked scripture in his rebuttal of school choice. But what does the Bible actually say? Psalm 127, says children are a blessing from the Lord. Later it says that children are like “arrows in the hand of a warrior” and the man who has “a quiver-full” of them is blessed. Proverbs 22:6 says to train up a child in the way he should go.

These verses (and others) indicate that children are a blessing to their parents, not just some vague blessing on society, and parents are commanded to train them. If parents aren’t given control and are forced to send their children to a school based on a home address, their ability to direct their child’s education is severely limited.

The author also cites Michigan as an example of the disastrous effects of school choice policies. He claims they rendered its school system “one of the weakest in the nation.” The data suggest otherwise. According to US News & World Report, Michigan ranks 29th overall, but 12th in college readiness. A survey of parents, teachers, and students to determine overall satisfaction with the school system ranked Michigan 19th.  These rankings do not place Michigan anywhere near the bottom.

He also seems to think money is the root of—and the solution to—all the educational ills we face as a state. However, throwing piles of money at a problem does not guarantee results. A recent 50-state (and D.C.) survey provides some interesting data: Alaska is 4th in spending but has the 48th ranked school system. Washington D.C. is 3rd in spending but has the 41st ranked system. By contrast, Virginia is 25th in spending but has the 4th ranked system. Utah is 50th in spending with the 18th ranked school system.

Oklahoma’s convoluted school funding system is in dire need of reform. However, simply pumping more money into it shouldn’t be viewed as a metric of success. 1889 Institute has written on efficiency in school funding and concluded that past spending of more money without superior outcomes indicates inefficiency and ineffectiveness in allocating taxpayer resources.

If Oklahoma is to become a top-ten state in education, the legislature needs to empower parents to direct their children’s education while also making the most efficient use of every dollar.

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