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YC Magazine, Libertarian Commentary, August 2011

Monopoly of the Mind

Is your child going to attend a different type of school this fall? Do you have any choice in the matter? Unfortunately, not many do since our money has been poured into a top-heavy, inefficient public school monopoly lacking in accountability and innovation.

SC public schools, including those in York County, are among the worst in the nation, at least 95% worse than other public school districts nationwide. In addition, the US is falling far behind other nations in education, but we continue down the same worn path, restricting choice and freedom while throwing money into a broken system.

Albert Einstein defined, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” How much longer can we tolerate this?

There are so many reasons why the public school system in general is not a good investment, and here are just four. First, schools in this monopolized system always get paid whether or not they are doing a good job. Secondly, there is greater incentive for schools to promote students versus failing them so the district looks good. Third, the top-down structure of the public school system does not allow teachers to teach in the best way that suits them and their students. Finally, the York County school districts are inefficient because more than half of the funds per student go toward things other than instruction.

If a big phone company was able to take money from you no matter if you used their service or not, do you think they would care what you thought? Do you think they would seek input from you, give you a choice of options, and spend your money wisely to ensure quality?

What would the incentive be, if they were guaranteed to get paid? What if it was the least expensive option in town but it wasn’t working for you, and you still had to pay twice as much out-of-pocket to use another company while they still took their cut? That doesn’t sound fair at all, does it?

In our rigid public school system, more students are pushed toward college rather than learning an actual vocational skill. After students earn their expensive college degree; are they going to even find a job after taking on an extreme amount of educational debt? Sure, we have secured the livelihoods of a lot of professors, but what about teaching people to work? If we want innovative thinkers in our state, we must train them to learn to do something skilled and practical that they’ll love. What most liberal arts degrees don’t prepare students for is anything other than a paper-pushing job in a field they probably did not attend school for.

Our very own Libertarian Tim Moultrie who ran for SC State Superintendent of Education last election is a public high school social studies teacher and a homeschooling parent. He says that the public school system where he works punishes teachers who fail students. I am sure York County is no different. If students aren’t allowed to fail or repeat classes, they are going to be at a great disadvantage.

Likewise, a “C” in an honors class is different than an “A” in a less challenging class. Students are there to learn, and if they aren’t challenged enough even though they may get A’s what is the point? We have got to stop automatic promotions and easy grades.

I’d like to see our politicians dedicate themselves to ensuring that this is a free country again. Perhaps it is not a popular idea among the status quo crowd, but we have got to make some real changes, or SC will never get out of the slump that it is in. But maybe you think it is cool that our rulers have so much control over young minds. Masses are controlled a bit easier when taught not to question.

We need to empower parents and teachers to make curriculum decisions. Since the federal government doesn’t want to leave us alone, why not encourage more private schools to fill the niche that the public system can’t? We can do this when our system of funding for schools is a bit more voluntary and parents have the flexibility to choose where school funding dollars go.

Here is a small slice of York County school district data that gives you an idea of the budget inefficiency I am talking about in the most stellar district in York County:

YORK 04 SCHOOL DISTRICT (Fort Mill)

This district has 8,676 students in 10 schools, and is better than 100% of SC public school districts, however only better than 5.5% of public school districts nationwide earning the lowest rating of one in ten. Only 58% of its students are grade-level proficient in Reading and Math, according to No Child Left Behind testing. The district spends $4,301 on actual instruction with the remainder of the $12,036 per student going to other expenses. York County School District 04 spends $1000 less on instruction and $3000 more on other expenses than the national average for public schools.
Source: http://www.neighborhoodscout.com

If you need further proof of the shape of public school systems in our country, I highly recommend you watch the documentary, The Cartel www.thecartelmovie.com/

Let’s come up with new ways to structure school funding so that more people have different public and private options and schools will actually compete for the best students and teachers. There is nothing wrong with a dose of healthy competition. If we can’t compete amongst ourselves, how will we ever be prepared for the global market?

Jen is Treasurer/Secretary for the York County Libertarian Party.

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