The Libertarian Party of North Carolina (LPNC) urges a change from a government-run education system to a free-market solution.
Education is too important a function to leave it in the hands of government. The LPNC supports any attempt by parents and students to take control of their education. While the NC Constitution mandates that children have access to a quality education, this can best be done by lifting the burden of regulation from private education, by encouraging home schooling, and by allowing as much school choice as possible.
The LPNC believes that educating children is one of the most important functions of society. In this, we agree with both the two larger political parties, PTA associations, and parents everywhere. The differences in our beliefs lie only in the execution. One big political party wants to address the subject with vast quantities of tax money spent on public education. The other big political party wants the state to control the standards for curriculum and inject religious values.
Public education in America has done one amazing, wonderful thing – it has shown that there is value in education and particularly literacy for everyone. Unfortunately, the American public education system is doing exactly what any socialist program does. It is performing to the minimum standards mandated by the bureaucrats in charge, while working continuously to maximize its budget.
Some things have slowed down this trend. The first of these is the presence of some truly excellent teachers, doing the best they can with the resources they are given and the situation in which they teach. Another is parents, particularly organized parents such as PTA groups that demand decent education at a local level. The last of these is conscientious members of local school boards, which typically consist of members who battle between maximizing the education while minimizing the tax burden. But this is but an effort to hold back the basic problem – that the system itself has evolved to where it rewards expensive mediocrity.
No Child Left Behind, at its core, was an attempt to make the socialist system of mandated mediocrity act more like a capitalistic system. It attempted to put in place accountability, and allow poor performers to be moved out of the system. In a capitalist system, this happens automatically – poor performing companies go out of business every day, with their customers going to companies they perceive to be a better value. The problem with No Child Left Behind is that the standard of value of education is determined not by the customer (parents) but instead by the Department of Education, in Washington, DC. This has led to the students learning only how to pass the end of term tests.
What America needs for our children is not another expensive, centalized federal program. What America needs is a system where parents can choose where their children will be educated, who will teach them, and what material will be presented. What we need is a system where schools compete for the privilege of teaching children. We need a system where, when a school is innovative, excellent, and effective, everyone – teachers, administrators, kids and parents – are richly rewarded for taking risks and making extra effort. We need a system where if a school is dirty, dangerous, and under performing then no child has to go there, it is shut down, and replaced by a better school.
What we need is free enterprise in education.
But what about the poor? “Surely” say the socialists, “If we don’t provide ‘free’ education to every child, poor children will not be educated. A vicious cycle will occur where the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.” But this brings back the point that public education has already shown the value of education. Does any rational person really believe that if we were freed of the massive price of “free” education in this country, Americans acting voluntarily wouldn’t immediately start thousands of national, state, and local scholarship programs? Americans are without a doubt the most generous people in the world. Currently, not only do we repeatedly vote in favor of higher taxes for ourselves for education, but our churches and civic organizations raise millions of dollars yearly to fund education in other countries. In addition, every business knows smart, talented people are their greatest asset, they will not allow the supply to be cut off – they will fund students.
What would happen is not a vicious circle of ever increasing poverty and illiteracy. That is what we have now. What we would see is virtuous circle of ever better-performing schools, teaching kids in new and creative ways, with news of effective techniques spreading, being copied and improved upon. Great schools would emerge for kids to maximize their potential, while having fun. Managing it all would be ‘word of mouth’, at internet speeds. Social networks would spring up just to brag about (or complain about) schools, spontaneous websites rating and evaluating for every region and for every topic would appear. Great teachers would become the stars they always deserved to be, instead of being forced into mediocrity and a slim pension.
We cannot predict in detail what would emerge. The simple truth is that nobody knows precisely what a natural, modern education system would look like. All we have seen in the modern world is state-run top-down systems. Based on all experience though (eg, the Post Office vs FedEx or e-mail), the private result will vastly outperform the public system.
So how do we do it?
The national Department of Education needs to have its legal mandate removed, or greatly reduced. Its regulatory power needs to be handed back to where it belongs – to the state, county, city or (best of all) parental level. This massively bureaucratic institution’s budget can better be channeled elsewhere – preferably to lowering taxation rates.
This is an obvious budget-cutting target. But we can’t just remove its budget, we need to entirely remove the laws that force its existence and give it authority.
In North Carolina
An obvious barrier to private schools is the current system of involuntary payment to public schools. Why would parents who have already paid significant taxes to the county and city departments of education, pay again to put their kids into one of the few private schools? So everyone goes to public schools, and new public schools are built every year, and class sizes just seem to go up.
As a transition, what we propose is to allow public school administrators to grant, from their school’s operating budget, scholarships for kids to go to private schools. Parents should be allowed to choose home school, religious affiliated school, or whatever education approach they deem best for their children.
As public schools become crowded, school boards would then have the option of either building new facilities, or just increasing the general scholarship level. Eventually, as the competition increased, and the value of private enterprise became obvious, the need for public funded scholarships would be replaced by private charity naturally and smoothly.
The Libertarian Party strongly encourages all parents to be as involved as possible in their children’s education. Know the teachers. Go to school board meetings at local and county levels. Go to PTA meetings.
The Libertarian Party just as strongly encourages non-parents to do the same things. It is your money, and these are your future employers, employees, and caregivers. Be involved.