October 17, 2013 by Anders Ingemarson
Here in Colorado, we’ll be voting this November on whether to increase state income taxes to pay even more for public (government) education. The debate is very pragmatic, centering on whether the effort is good or bad for the economy, and whether more money will or will not improve education. As is usually the case, few commenters raise it to a more principled level, questioning the validity of public education in the first place and providing a vision for the future of education. Since we’re into the “vision thing” here at SEPARATE!, I submitted the following guest commentary to our main local newspaper, the Denver Post. We’ll see if they find it fit for publication.
“Save Our Kids – Vote No on Amendment 66
“Coloradoans are heading to the polls this November to vote on Amendment 66, a proposed state income tax increase providing additional funding for public education to the tune of $950 million.
“The proponents of the measure argue that “One of government’s most important functions is to provide children with a high-quality education.” (quote from the 2013 state ballot information booklet).
“It is true that education is an important function and that government has traditionally provided most of it. But while it is unquestionably important to receive a basic education, it is time to challenge the notion that providing it should be part of the role of government.
“Public, or more correctly, government education has a long track record of failure. Today’s children spend on average more time in school, learning less at a higher cost than their counterparts 50 years ago. This is in stark contrast to the development in most other areas of society:
- A car is of better quality and costs less today than 50 years ago, allowing a modest wage-earner to drive a modern car that is superior to the top-of-the-line luxury automobile back then.
- Healthcare, despite its problems, cures and prevents more diseases today than 50 years ago, increasing the length and quality of life across the social spectrum.
- Big box retailers have revolutionized the way we shop, allowing families to spend a decreasing share of their income on food and other necessities compared to 50 years ago.
“These and other areas have benefitted from a relatively free marketplace where competition and innovation flourish. Over time, it has produced more and better products and services at lower prices. As a result consumers have received more value for their hard-earned money with each passing year.
“It is a tragedy of historic proportions that we have refused our children the benefit of similar advances in education. Had the same conditions been present in education as in other areas the past 50 years, children would finish school today at an earlier age, better educated, and with less total expense for their parents.
“Applied to education, what are those conditions?
- A marketplace where parents are free to seek out the best education they can afford for their child without government regulatory and financial meddling.
- An education industry where enterprises, large and small, compete for parents’ business by providing ever increased value for money through relentless educational innovation and reduced costs.
- A labor market where teachers are rewarded for performance, where they can find employment that is aligned with their ideas of good teaching, and where they are free to negotiate their own terms without the shackles of union contracts.
- And a non-profit sector, where individuals and organizations are free to support those with insufficient means to provide their children with a basic education (this group will decrease in number year by year as education improves and the price tag comes down).
“We’re obviously far away from realizing this vision. But promising steps are being taken around the country and here in Colorado. Charter schools, vouchers, education tax credits, regulatory repeal, and disempowerment of teachers’ unions are beginning to chip away at the government education colossus. These are the areas where citizens should introduce amendments and put pressure on their elected officials.
“Douglas County School District is leading the way on the home front with others showing interest in following suit. It will be a long process with significant opposition. For example, teachers’ unions are investing heavily in school board election races to promote candidates that want to preserve the status quo. But as government education continues to deteriorate, citizen driven initiatives will bring about positive change and the eventual abolition of government education.
“For now, Coloradoans should save our kids from further entrenching government run and government financed schools by voting “No” on Amendment 66. It is an initiative out of touch with the true vision for the future of education.”