America touts the best educational system in the world – our federal government, at least, spends a good deal on education ranking second behind Switzerland on money per child– an average of $91,700 per student in the nine years between the ages of 6 and 15 according to “Losing the Brain Race” by Veronique de Rugy (reason.com March 2011). Unfortunately, our children’s academic success does not correlate with the money that is spent; while we are second in spending, America’s students rank in the mid-range for all major academic areas; de Rugy states, “ we spend one-third more per student than Finland, which consistently ranks near the top in science, reading, and math… During the last 40 years, the federal government has spent $1.8 trillion on education, and spending per pupil in the U.S. has tripled in real terms. Government at all levels spent an average of $149,000 on the 13-year education of a high school senior who graduated in 2009, compared to $50,000 (in 2009 dollars) for a 1970 graduate.”
Poor academic showing is not the only consequence of our federally governed education system, however. We have also suffered a great loss of liberty in that schooling is compulsory, curriculum is designed and distributed by publishing companies with deep ties to the government itself, and parents have been left with no say in what is happening to their children, and treated as though they are not qualified to criticize or question the system that is so very flawed. The government would like us to believe that we need more “funding” to fix the broken system. “We have tried spending more money and putting more teachers in classrooms for more than a generation, with no observable improvements to anything except the schools’ bottom lines,” states de Rugy. “If reform is to be defined by something other than the amount of money flushed down the toilet, it is time to reverse the flow of power from the top (administrators, school districts, teachers unions, governments) to the bottom ( students , their parents, and taxpayers who want their money spent wisely).”
I couldn’t agree more. While de Rugy suggests “the ‘parent trigger,’ which allows fed-up parents whose children are in a consistently underperforming school to quickly change the school’s leadership.” Under this model, “by signing a petition, parents can force reorganization of a school’s management or conversion into a charter school.” That’s not a bad idea; however, I have a more radical suggestion– we need to hold our federal government to its Constitutional limitations. We must dismantle the Department of Education, end all federal education funding, end standardized testing, nullify all federal law regarding education in America, and allow the states, counties, towns and cities to create education models that best fit the needs of their children. “At the start of the compulsion era there were approximately 135,000 separate citizen school boards, perhaps more, each with seven to nine very solid and very local men and women as board members, watchdogs over the local institution… But local oversight promised nothing but trouble to those who wanted national uniformity…Inside of a century the number of boards was reduced to 15,000. And each decline in the absolute number of school boards made their composition less and less local” (John Taylor Gatto. Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling). Without local oversight and control– without giving the power back to the people– this behemoth that is our national education system will never be reformed, and our children will continue to face academic stagnancy.