Editor’s note: This is the last post in our school choice wish series. See the rest of the line-up here.
by Jeff Bergosh
Our education system in America from top to bottom not only needs to change, it needs a complete and dramatic overhaul. While it’s easy for those who control educational decisions at the state and local level to stick with what is most familiar, and to simply request more and more taxpayer funding to do things the very same way they have always done them, this has not worked. We are falling behind the rest of the world.
1. We must start listening to parents and stop telling them we know what is best for their children. Parents want to send their kids to the very best schools, not to the schools some bureaucrat tells them they can attend.
2. We must stop wasting precious taxpayer money fighting school choice in court. Florida is fighting entrenched special interests over parental choice, and this is ridiculous! Associations that purportedly represent the interests of teachers, school board members, school administrators, and parents initiated this litigation. Hanging in the balance are 70,000 students who love the tax credit scholarship schools they attend. They do not want their scholarships taken from them by the guardians of the status quo.
3. We must focus on making all of our schools better, rather than fixating on quashing competition from any and all other education providers. Competition forces us all to improve, and competition will make the public schools better.
We simply must evolve or our system will implode.
Countries around the world are spending less per pupil and achieving better outcomes than we are. In order to compete, we must innovate and empower parents to choose the right school for their children. The future of the public school system in America depends upon our willingness to listen to our constituents.
We need to offer a wide assortment of choices and options to all students, including virtual, traditional, vocational, technical, private schools, or any combination thereof. Taxpayer-funded education for students is a right, and I believe it is a right we owe students and parents — not to a dysfunctional governmental jobs and enrichment system that too often fails.
Education in 20 to 30 years will look very different than it does today. Homeschooling will continue to grow, and parents with means will, in many cases and in many communities, choose to pay the extra money necessary to send their students to private schools, where they are confident about things such as curriculum, rigor, quality, and SAFETY. Meanwhile, many middle-class and poor students will be left with limited and less effective options. That’s why we’re seeing demand for change – demand from parents to send their students to the schools they want utilizing tax-credit scholarships or “backpack funding.”
Why should taxpayers not have free choice as to where they want to send their children with their own tax money? This change is coming; it is only a matter of time.
I believe in public education, I’m a product of public education, and I think survival of the public education system depends upon giving parents and students more choice.
So this Christmas season, my biggest wish of all is that we take back the education agenda from the self-absorbed, self-motivated special interests that want to control every facet of education in America. Let’s give it back to whom it rightfully belongs: parents and students.
Jeff Bergosh is a member of the Escambia County (Fla.) School Board.