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Education visionaries must prevail
By Nancy Salvato
When the framers were invited to the Philadelphia Convention, it was to revamp the Articles of Confederation. Shays Rebellion, difficulty raising revenue, and regulating foreign trade convinced many of the need for a stronger national government. It was not anticipated, though, the Articles would be scrapped or that James Madison would arrive with his Virginia Plan in tow, outlining a proposal for an entirely different organization of government. But he did and changed the whole course of our history, the result of his innovative spirit and confidence in his ideas.
Like James Madison, there are many who believe that the present system of public education can no longer provide an optimal performance on the same set of worn tires. It needs more than just an infusion of money to control the leaks and propensity to fall flat. It needs an entirely different set of wheels to run smoothly and efficiently.
Visionaries, like James Madison, able to see beyond the present boundaries and provide alternative solutions are trying to remedy the established public education system. Like the framers were able to come to an agreement about the type of Constitution our country needed, they have formulated their plans but still have to convince the general populace that their vision is the only sustainable course of action and that we cannot continue mired in a system controlled by administrators and union reps whose only stake in the process is the status quo because it serves to maintain their present stature and income.
Competition in a free market prompts people to excel and continually pursue greater achievements. This is why the United States is a prosperous country and that our population as a whole lives much more comfortably than most others around the world. Choice in education provides those needing educational services more options and a competitive product. If a product isn't up to speed, people will not seek it out. Universal Tuition Tax Credits are the only option that would allow consumers from any socio/economic background the opportunity to pursue the education that best fits their needs without drawing from public education dollars. There are additional ways to insert competition into the public school system.
One suggestion worth considering has educators run the public educational system by electing their principals. It's worth noting that everyone has been given the opportunity to change the present system of education in our country except the teachers, who have been given no power in the system. Teachers often fear losing their jobs or offending the principal or others if they truly voice their opinions.
Electing the principal would remove the fear teachers have of expressing their true beliefs about how things should go. It would also introduce an element of competition. Next, principals would serve as the school board members because they are infinitely more knowledgeable about how the tax dollars should be spent in their district.
These same principals would elect one of their own to serve as superintendent for a term –in charge of appointing and hiring teachers. Teachers would no longer have to answer to untrained school boards and administrators who are removed from the every day problems of the classroom. Classroom teachers could simply vote out those who impede the educational process.
If there must be a teacher union, it will be to do the job for which it was established; to seek proper benefits and working conditions for the members. That would be the extent of any union role in education.
It is the teachers who have the proper training and classroom experience necessary to run the school system. It must be acknowledged that in the sum of their practical experience and training lie the only answers to the question of what works in education.
Nancy Salvato is a Research Associate with Americans for Limited Government. She is an experienced educator and an independent contractor with Prism Educational Consulting. She serves as Educational Liaison for Illinois' 23rd Senatorial District. She works nationally and locally furthering the cause of Civic Education. Her writing is widely published on the internet and occasionally in print venues such as the Washington Times. Her opinions have been heard on select radio programs across the nation. Additionally, her writing has been recognized by the US Secretary of Education. Copyright © Nancy Salvato 2004
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