How much do you know about public school funding? If you do not have children, I would be surprised if you knew very much. If you do have kids, it could quite possibly be the biggest headache of your life. The reason for this is due to the fact that public education funding is drawn from property taxes, and the higher your property value is, the greater the revenue is for the local public school. This may seem pretty straight forward, and it may even seem equitable or fair, but I can assure you it is not.
The purpose of public education is to ensure every child has equal access to education. That seems simple enough, yet, as with all things involving people, the idea is not so straight forward. Every child is different, and what constitutes an education varies widely. In an effort to parse these ideas into concepts that are manageable, let us accept that every child is different, because in reality they are, and let us also define education as the development of skills and accumulation of knowledge that helps an individual flourish.
By this standard, our current public schooling system fails miserably. On the front end, we have a system that tries to universalize standards and teaching methods across the board. Every student must sit in a desk and be lectured to. If they do well in this environment and like the subject matter, they get good marks and get to move on. However, if they are not engaged physically, creatively, or intellectually, they flounder. Worse yet, graduation rates being one standard of success for schools, in an effort to show improvement, the standards for graduation are reduced so more kids, who are not engaged properly, are pushed through a system that has effectively taught them nothing.
To add insult to injury, standardized testing has stripped individual children of their curiosity and interest in learning. Teachers are no longer teaching children so they can flourish in life; teachers are teaching children so they can pass a test. Life is not about your ability to fill in the correct bubbles on a test; it is about applying your innate talents, developed skills, and acquired knowledge in a way that will help you experience happiness as often as possible. No part of our current system teaches this to children, let alone prepares them for it.
On the back end, our children are suffering even more. After going through the meat processing plant that is our current public education system, our children are not equipped to handle a regular nine to five job, let alone get married, buy a house, and have kids. These were the standards of the American Dream, and instead of improving our institutions to ensure all of our kids can accomplish this dream if they want, we have changed the dream itself to simply, “Be happy with what you can get.” Upwards of fifty percent of college students need remedial courses upon enrollment. This is a clear statement of the failure of our current system.
I personally have first-hand experience with how inadequate our system is. I graduated from one of the wealthiest school districts in the state of Ohio. You are probably thinking, how is that a bad thing? It is a bad thing because it is proof our system works just well enough for those with means to not complain about it. My mother did everything she could to get me into the school district I went to, which meant moving within its jurisdiction. She was fortunate enough to be able to move me there, and I benefited greatly from the choice she made. The problem is that access to great education should not depend upon your zip code. If the people that moved into affluent areas with wealthy school systems were forced to send their kids to the same underperforming institutions the less affluent have to endure, the system would be changed in a matter of months. Instead, because those with the power to change the system can simply move to an area where the system is still working, nothing changes.
I do not fault these people for moving. In fact, I applaud their hard work to ensure their children have the best possible opportunities, just as my mother did for me. The people I do fault are the legislators for seeing the broken system and being either too controlled by teachers’ unions or too afraid or lazy to make the changes necessary. What are those changes, you might ask? Simple. A publicly funded voucher program.
As it stands, all of the money gathered locally for schools goes to the public institutions, and the kids are sent there based upon their zip code. The state and federal governments have money that they grant for various programs, some of which are voucher programs, but a large portion goes to the institutions as well. A voucher program will instead send the money to the children directly. Every child, regardless of zip code, will receive the same amount of money from the state for the purpose of funding the child’s education. The parent will then be able to choose to which school they will send their child. This will allow for a whole new market in educational services to grow.
Private schools, charter schools, online schools, Montessori schools, other institutions unimaginable right now, and yes, even public schools will all be competing with each other to provide the best possible education for our children. If a parent does not like what their child is learning, or if the child expresses dissatisfaction with their teachers or school, the parent can change where the child learns in a matter of days. Schools will have to work to serve the children, and not the legislative mandates and bureaucratic entanglements that ensnare and obfuscate progress on a daily basis in our current system. Teachers will have the freedom to teach their students in a way that accords with their abilities and beliefs, and the students will have the freedom to choose the teachers that suit their aptitudes and interests. If our goal is to help every individual child flourish, a voucher system is the only solution that can come from a publicly funded educational program.
The argument is simple. If human flourishing is our standard of value, forcing children to go to underperforming institutions with poorly designed educational programs and unsatisfactory methods of teaching clearly fails our standard. Our children are suffering, and the most in need of quality education are suffering the worst. The system we have still works for the wealthy, and they should not be faulted for taking advantage of it. For those of us that see the problem, it is our job to point it out and educate all those around us so they too can see the truth. If we want to live in a society that works for everyone, we must admit when society is failing those among us that need our help the most. The educational system we have is failing, and it will be only a matter of time until it affects everyone, even the wealthy. This is why we need to tackle this problem now and start working towards a better future. Take voucher programs seriously, and start advocating for school choice today. If we want a better future, we must help the children that will inherit tomorrow flourish today.
By this point you may be wondering, “What does this have to do with anarchy?” After all, in a world of entirely voluntary interactions, the only “public” education would be that provided by private charities or voluntary community organizations. We do not live in that world. We live in a world with public education, and if we ever want to get into a state of anarchy, we must start pushing for a freeing of the educational system so that the ideas of freedom start permeating the minds of our children. That can only happen today through a system of school vouchers and school choice. This is why it is relevant to anarchy, and it is why, if you are reading this blog, it should matter to you.