Cosmetic budget cuts will not solve our nation's debt woes. Real change is required to right our county. Waste must be identified, isolated, and eliminated.
One such change is to abolish the U.S. Department of Education.
The Department of Education was established to promote "student achievement and prepare them for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and insuring equal access."
Since 1979 when the Department of Education was created and with the passage of laws regulating education, such as the No Child Left Behind, the result has been an education system where compliance with laws becomes the rule of the day rather than the primary focus being quality education.
While I am not an attorney nor do I profess to understand our Nation's laws, however confusing and contradictory they may be, I do know that Title 20, U.S. Code regulates education. It is made up of over 75 chapters!
No Child Left Behind is so comprehensive that the Table of Contents alone is 28 pages!
Regulations do not educate children! Teachers and Parents do!
The real issue involved with the creation of the Department of Education involves trust. It implies that parents, teachers, local officials, state officials, and the entire community cannot be trusted to provide quality education for our children and students.
The "Father of the Common School Movement," Horace Mann (1796-1859), served as the Secretary of the Mass State Board of Education when he successfully argued for "universal public education as the best way to turn the nation's unruly children into disciplined, judicious republican citizens." He helped create public schools as we know them today.
Despite his experiences in education at the state level, however, it is interesting to note that when Horace Mann was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1848 he did not introduce one piece of legislation arguing for a federal involvement in education.
Unfortunately, with the mass public education system of the past 50 years, all too often the minimum standard has become the benchmark of success, rather than the cutoff for failure. No Child Left Behind is hardly a piece of legislation that a politician could vote against. Just the name of the Act itself is intended to invoke support despite the lack of merit of the bill.
Education directed from Washington, D.C. does not work even if it were Constitutional.
Virtually every study will tell you that the keys to quality education are:
- Parental involvement
- Rewarding education
- Rewarding teachers and providing local autonomy
- Minimize Compliance costs
Parental involvement is the key to the success of any education program. When a child knows that his or her parents are part of their lives, the value of the education they receive increases substantially. Yet, in so many cases, parental involvement is difficult to gauge, monitor, and enforce.
The longer term solution to getting more parents involved is to back off parents. That seems contradictory but, in reality, most parents today are at their limits due to very high costs, taxes, and a government that is already intruding into every aspect of their lives. The answer is not a child care tax credit but to back off on government spending so that taxes can be cut so that one parent can support his/her family comfortably.
Another crucial aspect of rebuilding America's education system is to reward education. Making a student with an A average and great test scores qualify for a scholarship mainly due to parental income is silly. Financial need is but one aspect of a scholarship. Performance is the most important aspect. Making all students winners may seem like you we are being kind, but once the student gets into the work force, it is about performance, experience, critical thinking, and abilities. In an education system in which you cannot fail, it also means that you cannot succeed.
We must encourage superior performance at every level of school from elementary to high school to college. We need to greatly expand the ability of the school to tailor the education to the student using the judgment of teachers and parents. That is best done locally and with the parent's involvement.
Our teachers deserve great respect. They deserve to be paid fairly. They are a great national asset. Making teachers spend more time complying with laws rather than teaching seems counterproductive at best. I trust teachers to do that which is best for the student.
Giving local autonomy, greater parental involvement, rewarding students for performance, and insisting upon rewarding quality teachers while ridding ourselves of those not qualified, our children will truly succeed. We will not have to worry about them being left behind, because they will be leading us.
What separates a great nation from one in decline is the quality of the education that its citizens receive. Our very freedoms, our success, and our wealth are influenced by our students, the education they receive, and the ability to determine for ourselves our future careers. That is not done from Washington, D.C. Make a real difference -- eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. Cosmetic changes will not fix our nation's budget woes. Only real change will.
Frank Ryan, CPA specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies. Frank is a retired Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve and served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan. He is on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at FRYAN1951@aol.com.