I am the result of a privatized education. I never spent one day in public school from preschool through high school and three years of that I spent being home-schooled. I’m sure having three children at home all day and being solely responsible for their educations drove my mother crazy but she did a great job.
We didn’t come out of it with stunted educations or social lives. We thrived actually. Between friends in the neighborhood and being very active in our church and youth groups we were quite busy, our social lives were full and we ended up pretty smart, if you don’t mind me saying so! Because we were home-schooled for several years, it gave us the opportunity to travel the world and I can guarantee you we learned more hands-on through different cultural experiences than most children sitting in any classroom.
I’m very grateful that my parents were willing to sacrifice financially in order to put all three of their children through private educations during the years that we weren’t learning at home. And my thankfulness to my mother has increased now that I have school-age children and I can admit quite freely I don’t have what it takes to be a home-school mom!
My husband, on the other hand, grew up in the public school system and oftentimes not in the best districts. As such, when my son reached kindergarten we debated furiously on what we would do for his education.
Thankfully, we live in an area that has a small public school around the corner and after hearing many happy reports we decided that our son would attend there as well. I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t willing to compromise on certain things and that at the first sign of trouble I would pull him out and put him in private school. He is in his 5th year there now and I’m thrilled to say, because of very high parent involvement and good teachers, we’ve been relatively happy.
Nevertheless, I know we are among the lucky ones. I am all too aware that despite the fact that our government is spending four times MORE than we were spending 40 years ago on our public education, the outcome is dramatically horrible. We live in a country where 32 million Americans can’t read or write, we can’t fire bad teachers because of rotten teacher unions and 200 pages of bureaucratic contracts, and because of a government monopoly there’s no competition or reason for schools to do better.
I’ve been a fan of school vouchers for years and furious that while 35% of Congress feels public education isn’t good enough for their children, they refuse to give the rest of America who may not be able to afford a private education, a better choice for their children. Why are we locked into a system that assigns a school to our child dictated by our address? We don’t do it that way for anything else!
Imagine being limited to the same grocery store, the same dry cleaner, the same restaurant! It doesn’t matter if that restaurant is dirty and disgusting, expensive with poor service and cockroaches in the soup- it’s your only option because you have been relegated to it due to your address.
Each of us have the freedom to choose which restaurants we like, which grocery stores we shop at, which retails stores we frequent. Everyday businesses live and die on whether their product is great, their prices competitive and their customer service outstanding. Those who fall short eventually have to close their doors and those who do well thrive financially and often reproduce their system through franchises all over the country. It’s called the Free Market.
School vouchers would do away with that monopoly and instead of having your child tied to a school despite its success or failure, your child instead would be attached to dollars. In addition, you could use those dollars to shop around and pick the school of your choice (imagine that!) and if you were in the middle of the year and the school was not living up to its promises, or had horrible teachers, a bad administration, or any problem that was not being overcome to your satisfaction, you could take your child out of that school and place him in a new one of your choice.
Common sense dictates to us the result of such a thing. Bad schools would find their halls empty and have a decision to make… either increase their quality of education and lure students and parents back to them or forever shut their doors. Great schools would flourish and find themselves full and profitable and building new ones across the street with the same successful system and eventually taking over the buildings of those forced to shut down.
We see it everyday with grocery stores, restaurants and retail shops…
The free market works just about every time when the government isn’t allowed to interfere. We already know that throwing money at the problem doesn’t help and meanwhile our education is becoming the butt of the jokes heard around the world. Charter schools in our country laugh at the amount of money the government is paying per child and yet still comes out with a very inferior product.
This is a fight I feel is worth fighting! While I know we’ve only scratched the surface here and hope to delve much further into it in the future, I hope over the next few years we begin to see parents step up and let their voices be heard. It’s our money, they’re our children, it’s their futures and it’s time for this entrenched monopoly to be deregulated and handed back to the people!