The famous Pink Floyd song, from the late-1970s, "Another Brick in the Wall," takes a swipe at education: "All in all, it’s just another brick in wall."
Public education in America was once our greatest accomplishment. It was the springboard from the farm to the university, from Ellis Island to the penthouse, from your dreams to your successes.
America's streets were paved with gold, immigrants were led to believe.
To mine that gold you sent your kids to public school, and it worked.
They made it; not only succeeding, but excelling. Over and over again.
Sadly, today this all sounds funny.
Today’s reality seems so far away from yesterday’s success.
Our students, nationally, just lost two full years of knowledge and skills in English and math. That’s like running the first 20 miles of a marathon and then being put back on the starting line.
For so many young people, it’s over. They’ll never reach their full potential.
And neither will we, America. What made our public school system work so well?
The answer is found in four things:
- First, It was free
- Second, it was mandatory
- Third, it was universal
- Fourth, it was local
Well, it’s still free. It’s still mandatory. It’s still universal.
But, and here’s the kicker, it stopped being local a long time ago. I remember it well. I was a high school junior, around 1961. That’s right. In 1961, our public school system got nationalized, socialized, politicized, and, worst of all, unionized.
President Frank Delano Roosevelt warned us!
FDR told us that public employee unions were "unthinkable and intolerable." But, we chose not to listen. So now we eat what amounts to poisoned fruit.
You might think that we the people control the schools because we elect our local school board trustees. Not true. Mostly, we elect the liberals that the teachers’ unions allow us to elect.
How does that work?
Once upon a time, I was appointed to (and then elected to) a very small-town school board in a Republican New Jersey town. Our "district" of one large regional high school was, of course, unionized. And the every-two-year renegotiation of the teacher’s union contract was where all the important decisions were made.
It determined the length of the school year. It determined grounds for lifetime employment.
It determined rules for snow days, salaries, benefits and the process for firing burned-out tenured teachers. (Almost impossible). Worse than that, with New Jersey and most other states having small "local" districts, teachers who lived in one town while working in another were encouraged by the unions to run for their home town school board seats.
Voila. Now the union sat on both sides of the table.
Fast forward to my political life in Palm Beach County, Florida. Our public school system has 200,000 students, covering the entire county. Our Democratic-majority county voted 43% for Trump in 2020. Yet, our school board is seven out of seven liberals.
How did that happen?
If you want to run for the school board and actually win, you need money. The teachers’ union (the CTA, Classroom Teachers Association) will give you money, "volunteers," and a political infrastructure completely tied to the majority Democratic Party. In exchange, you will never support any policies that include School Choice or academic freedom.
That means "No" to Charter Schools, "No" to Opportunity Scholarships, "No" to parental involvement, and "No" to in-school teaching during COVID-19.
If you violate these "rules," you can forget reelection. If you obey these rules you can sit on the school board forever.
We recently had three 23-year incumbents, two of whom were anti-school choice Blacks.
But, this is Florida. We have Gov. Ron DeSantis. And that means we’re searching for ways to break the national monopoly that the National Education Association (NEA) has over public education in America.
Here are some new and future solutions:
- A voucher for every student to go to the school of their choice (Arizona);
- Every five-year tenure review (Florida);
- More Charter Schools with more state funding;
- More homeschooling with more state funding;
- Use U.S. Department of Education (DOE) money for more School Choice programs;
- Eliminate public employee unions political contributions, endorsements, and public policy activities;
- Establish local parent-dominated standing curriculum and textbook review committees with statutory reporting requirements.
The good news is that education reform is happening, finally.
The bad news is that it will not be easy or quick. Not "Another Brick in the Wall."
Sid Dinerstein is a former chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party. Read More — Here.
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