Past experience with federal education programs predicts that the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB) will also fail parents whose children are doing poorly in school. The federal government has spent over $120 billion on Title 1 programs for low-income students since 1965. Yet the literacy rates for these children today are appalling and the achievement gap between low-income children and their peers has not closed.
If the U.S. Department of Education wants to give real choice to parents, they should not be tinkering with a failed government-controlled school system that, by its very nature, strangles free choice and competition.
Americans have been blessed with a system that gives them almost unlimited choices in their daily lives for almost four hundred years — it’s called the free market.
If parents could pay for their kids’ education in a totally unregulated, fiercely competitive education free market, free from government controls, parents would have all the school choice in the world. This education free market would also give their kids a superb, low-cost education.
Yet too often, government officials with their bureaucratic mentality, distrust the free market, the same free market that brings them their cars, clothes, computers, electricity, and fresh food. The No Child Left Behind Act adds yet another layer of federal regulations to the already strangling layers of local and state government regulations on education.
If the federal government truly wants to give parents more school choice, they should be working to remove local and state controls over education, not adding to those controls with the No Child Left Behind law and other regulations. That is like trying to cure a person dying of arsenic poisoning by giving him more arsenic.
Naturally, government education officials can’t understand the fact that government control of education is not the solution, it is the problem.
Over the past fifty years, federal, state, and city governments have spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to “fix” the public schools. They have failed, time and again. For example, in July, 2005, the Congress-mandated National Assessment of Education Progress showed that high-school students’ dismal reading skills have not improved since 1999.
High-school drop-out rates in inner-city, low-income minority areas range from 30 percent to over 50 percent. High-school dropouts are far more likely to end up in prison during their lifetimes. A U.S. Bureau of Justice report estimates that approximately 47 percent of drug offenders and 75 percent of state prison inmates are high-school dropouts. Dropouts are also about three times more likely than high-school graduates to end up on welfare.
These are not just appalling statistics. These numbers represent millions of bright, eager chidren whose lives can be ruined by public schools that fail them.
Trying to repair the public-school system is futile, precisely because it is a compulsory, government-controlled near-monopoly. Trying to fix this system with vouchers, charter schools, or the No Child Left Behind Law is like trying to cure cancer with a band-aid.
Parents should not pin their hopes on any government-sponsored school-choice alternative. Vouchers, charter schools, and the No Child Left Behind Act are simply too little, too late. Also, powerful, entrenched special-interest groups in the public-school establishment fight school choice because they benefit from parents’ and children’s subservience to the system.
Parents should not expect the public schools in their neighborhoods to improve. If you want to give your children a decent education and a chance at life, you must take their future into your own hands, now. It is useless to hope that the public-school system has the will or ability to reform itself. It is a waste of your time, and your children’s precious time, to deal with, plead with, or complain to public-school authorities or employees who benefit by the system.
Instead, do as the citizen-slaves of communist East Berlin did when they fled to freedom in West Berlin — vote with your feet. Consider writing-off the public-school system. Consider taking your children out of these schools, permanently. You and your children remain victims of the public-school system only by your own consent. The power to withdraw your consent is a power that public-school authorities can’t stop. Withdraw your consent and refuse to be a victim any longer.
There are many other education resources that parents can use right now to give their kids a quality, low-cost education. These resources include the new Internet private schools, Internet tutors, low-cost, learn-to-read and learn-math books in libraries and bookstores, computer learning software, and home-schooling. I discuss all these great new education options in my book, “Public Schools, Public Menace.”
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