For choice in education

Education is an important and necessary priority.

Some people think it’s such a priority that they have decided not to leave the practice in the hands of trained professionals but attempt to go it alone with homeschooling.

This is a choice.

I applaud the homeschooling movement provided basic standards are met. But, with education, most are left without a choice.

A family will live in a community, largely dictated on affordability and job proximity. And, many families, provided they have the means, will choose a location with the above two in mind that also has, “good schools.”

So, what makes a good school?

That’s subjective, but I would presume the children are safe – including from each other – and they are actually learning things that will help them in life, such as writing, reading, math, science and civics. Also, their performance will eventually result in people who are productive members of the community.

While the General Assembly debates teacher salaries and infrastructure improvements, and it’s important that we do reward an incredibly important government service, we must couple such taxpayer benevolence with a little nod to personal freedom and competition.

A very important concession should be requested by our legislators – school choice –while we’re talking about increasing teacher pay and rehabilitating broken schools.

The “deal” that should be made should include:

► A makeover of SOLs. This has hamstrung educators and innovators. We need to unshackle our brightest teachers and allow them to do things that are unconventional.
► Increased pay for teachers, along with a revised spending calculus for schools funded by public dollars. Perhaps 10 percent on administration, 20 percent on infrastructure, and 70 percent on classroom spending – which includes career counseling and skills development? We can debate the numbers, but shouldn’t a majority of our tax dollars be dedicated to actually improving the learning of our kids and getting them jobs here in the commonwealth?
► School choice and charter schools. Open it up. If there is a corporate entity willing to spend their money to train their future employees, let it happen. Why are we fighting this? This is private investment in our community to make communities better. This should be encouraged, with, of course, oversight.
► Homeschooling integration. Provided there are reasonable baselines met, if not exceeded, I think any freedom-loving capitalist should applaud a family that is willing to invest and bet on themselves. If those baselines are not met, the child must go into public education, which should be the best available anywhere.

Perhaps I am being naïve in my ideas, but we have decided to go to opposite corners on education when we should really be looking at it in the terms of what’s best for a free market, capitalistic society.

My hope is that our General Assembly doesn’t just capitulate and acquiesce in transferring millions of dollars extracted from Virginia taxpayers to the ubiquitous “education system” with “newfound” revenue because Virginia’s tax laws no longer match federal laws and a lot more is being collected by the state.

My equal hope is that the General Assembly realizes that there is a strong argument for improving teacher pay and school infrastructure. The 5 percent pay raise suggested by House Republicans is a great start, but should not be without a concession from the Democrats to advance educational freedom.

Ultimately, what am I requesting?


This column appears in The Princess Anne Indpendent News