The failures of the Department of Education (DOE) have left both children and parents disenchanted. As the world moves ahead in key measures such as mathematics, reading and science, the American public-education system has left behind our students. The United States ranks 24th in reading literacy, 25th in science literacy, and 40th in math literacy in comparison to seventy-three of the most-developed nations, lagging behind other industrialized nations like Switzerland, Canada, and Israel.
The failure is exemplified in the Chicago school system. In 2012, the CTU bargained for greater pay increases at the expense of the taxpayer despite underperforming student test scores, graduation rates, and college preparation. The Chicago Public School system is a microcosm of America’s public education system which fails to prepare students for the workforce and college. As Chicago-based writer Hilary Gowins states, “Education should be the great equalizer; but in Chicago, public education is more of a holding cell than a launch pad.”
There are several key issues playing a role in the deterioration of the public education system, including regulations and policies, monopolization, and centralized decision making.
Regulations and Policies:
The most egregious policy in our current public school system is tenure for teachers. Many incompetent teachers gain tenure every year, making it nearly impossible for them to get fired. This is an incredible disservice to schools and students alike. For an institution to maximize its potential, they must retain and hire the best employees. Where incompetent, tenured teachers remain, the school system suffers.
Further, in public school systems, teachers are paid based on seniority rather than merit. Many of the older teachers in public institutions are not driven to work harder due to a lack of incentives, while newer teachers must meet basic curriculum standards to get a uniform pay increase based on their years of service. The result of this system is mediocre teachers who crowd out the most qualified at the expense of student potential.
In many communities, public schools are the only option because families can’t afford to pay for private school. Many students are trapped in failing public school systems that have minimal incentive to produce successful students. John Hood, former president of the John Locke Foundation, states, “Without the pressures of competition in education, parents are bothersome nuisances rather than clients who might potentially go elsewhere if not satisfied.” The public education system is extracting massive amounts of taxes while exhausting the potential of students.
Centralized Decision Making:
Most of the curriculum standards are dictated from Washington D.C., which has had substantive impacts on student demographics. For example, the states are coerced to accept standards and curriculum under Common Core through incentives and disincentives surrounding funding. The policies that are designed in Washington D.C. may work effectively for states such as Maine or New York, but may not for students in Texas, Alabama, or Missouri. These states have different demographic and economic needs that require curriculum flexibility to prepare students for success.
The needs of students in local municipalities and cities spanning America are dynamic, while policies formed in Washington D.C. are homogenous and lead to failure. Since its inception in 1979, the DOE has been granted millions of dollars to improve educational performance, but results reveal no real improvements. Director of Fiscal Research at Capital Policy Analytics Logan Albright states, “The department itself recently admitted that education spending isn’t producing any measurable results — a finding, which conforms with previous analyses of programs like Head Start and the department in general.” The central decision making of Washing D.C policymakers have failed us again.
Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to George Wythe, wrote:
“I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people.”
The diffusion of knowledge through the instruments of education are integral, but increasingly we see the failure of the centralized DOE to fulfill this goal for the United States. If we are to restore and fix the education system, we should return control back to states and local communities from the hands of out of touch bureaucrats in Washington D.C.