By Dr. Karen Hiltz for Florida Daily
The cost of educating children typically focuses on dollars and cents with a common measure being the per-pupil cost. But what is included in this calculation? There are many costs associated with education. Particularly when government funds support the institution.
We know a per pupil amount includes staff salaries and benefits, instructional materials, operational expenses, transportation, and more. But does it factor in capital costs? What about federal and state mandates and their unintended consequences? What are the impacts of the unexpected and unknown? These variables merely continue to build a bureaucracy that has gotten too big, too onerous, and too controlling.
Do We Need Public Education?
This is a reasonable question to ponder. As someone who’s been involved in education for almost two decades, my position has shifted. I’m no longer convinced that the public system we currently have is providing the return on investment we need for a thriving republic.
My journey into education began with teaching at the college level. I’ve served on private and public school boards and on various non-profits. There have been many changes, but the one constant is the expectation of a quality education for all children. Change has also revealed that many disagree on how education should be administered. However, many do understand the education a child receives has a direct impact on our communities, states, and republic.
Individuals and families traversed the Atlantic Ocean for a new life with new opportunities. They sought freedom from a tyrannical monarchy. They knew their rights were endowed by their Creator, not from the government. The risk to seek God-given rights and pursue religious freedom was vital to the success of our experiment. They also knew education was key.
Many claim our republic has always had a public education system. This reflects a lack of historical knowledge. During the time of our founding, public education was not dominate, publicly funded, nor widely accessible.
Public school began with a different purpose and teaching. For many reasons, it began mainly as an individual or private endeavor. Parents were responsible for their child’s upbringing. Otherwise, children were tutored or served in apprenticeships. Those who pursued higher education studied theology. Also, many believe education was for children of prominent families, but our founders recognized the value of having a virtuous and educated populous.
I’ve often stated COVID was the best thing that happened to education because parents’ eyes were opened. Children were forced to stay home, which allowed parents to see and hear what was being taught. Some school districts went so far as to tell parents they could not be in the room during instructional time. How ludicrous is that?
Unions exposed themselves for who they truly are.: agents merely seeking to retain power and control of the status quo. They required teachers to strike, administrators to lie, data to be distorted, and school districts to remain closed. If the party line wasn’t followed, retribution was administered. No wonder children are behind based on the scorecard. The sick part is unions claim to support teachers that only want what’s best for children. This is a lie!
What about choice?
Experts argue what choices parents should or should not be afforded. If true educational freedom is the goal, then all parents must decide what’s best for their child. When public school is the only offering, mediocrity should be expected. When competition is eliminated, the mouse trap never seeks improvement. The status quo sets in. People become complacent. We get what we get. And costs continue to rise.
Our republic is in this space. We’ve become complacent. We accept the status quo. We don’t want to rock the boat. We pay whatever it costs because it’s someone else’s money – right? This is the epitome of socialism. So, if we truly want excellence, we must have competition. We must raise our standards, not lower them. We must demand quality.
The reality is educational choice is a myth. There are only three: public, private, and homeschooling. When states offer vouchers, scholarships, education savings accounts, etc., these are mainly programs within the public education system. When public dollars are doled out, it falls within the realm of the public.
True education freedom isn’t a redistribution of tax dollars. It’s parents keeping their earned income to pay for educating their children. It means lowering or eliminating taxes. It means letting non-profits and churches provide the needed support. It means families doing what’s best for them.
Many are too dependent on the government. The government is expected to provide versus providing for ourselves. We’ve strayed from the principles of our constitutional republic. Our founding fathers envisioned limited government, not massive bureaucracies. We have become indentured servants. Freedom is an illusion!
The Real Cost
So, what is the real cost? Churning out children that are not proficient in the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic? Children who aren’t taught the virtues of family, religion, and community?
Education is big business. And big bureaucracies aren’t able to see the forest for the trees. Yes, our society does rely on an educated populace. But are our children learning what they need to be successful in life? I would argue that a growing number are not.
Instead of an educated populous, as our founding fathers intended, we are realizing an ever-increasing uneducated and illiterate populous. Every year more are relying on the government to survive. Many don’t value a work ethic. Too many are unable to function in an imperfect and complicated society. And, quite frankly, many point the finger at others versus themselves for their situation in life.
The Real Question
While opposing parties continue to disagree about parental rights, books, safety, social issues, and more, the big picture is being overlooked. For those who truly seek quality education, one must ask: Do you want more or less government control over your child’s education and life?
Dr. Karen Hiltz, a speaker and author from Sebastian, is a Navy veteran, retired federal procurement professional and a former professor of business and public school board member. She has a BA and MBA in Management and an EdD in Leadership Studies.