Tuesday, May 04, 2004

This week we’re focusing on the politics of K-12 education.



You can put the most intelligent people on school boards with the best character and horse sense. They can care incredibly much about children and the community. They can be eager to pour their hearts into making our schools the best they can be.

And yet shortly after beginning their service, most of them will be left scratching their heads and feeling as though they’re just rubber stamps or spinning their wheels, wondering why they can’t get anything done.

It’s not them. It’s the system.

Politically speaking, the education system has the general public by the short hairs. Even the most charismatic of political leaders can’t do much about it.

Elections are still important, of course, and we need to put the best possible people on state and local school boards and in legislative seats. But the bottom line is, the “system” has won the battle for the balance of power, between the political realities, the unionization, the funding realities, and on and on and on.

We, the people, are stuck on the wrong end of the seesaw, power-wise.

That’s the conclusion more and more people are drawing about our public schools. Could it be that we have overpoliticized them, to the point where they can no longer fulfill their mission?

An article in today’s World Net Daily suggests that. Apparently the Southern Baptist Convention is going to consider calling its millions of members to pull their children out of government schools, and send them to private Christian schools, or homeschool them.



The main impediment to this, they say, is massive denial on the part of parents that there is anything wrong with the schools. That’s reflected in the nearly constant approval of multimillion dollar bond issues and the acceptance of ever-increasing budgets and staffs despite flat or declining enrollment, and evidence of sagging academic achievement.

The article quotes proponents of “exodus” as predicting that if 10-15 percent of children are pulled from government schools, the "$500 billion behemoth" will be delegitimized and will collapse financially.

That’s the last thing any of us wants to see. But most observers have said for years that the only thing the public school “educracy” understands is loss of enrollment.

That’s the only thing that can make them change. Not more money and not better school-board members. They already have plenty of both.

The only political capital we have is where we enroll our children.

Would an “exodus” help Nebraska’s public schools? Not in the short run: there’d be chaos.

But in the long run, it might just be the only way.

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