Reforming education and health care so citizens are in charge

Let’s Put Parents Back in Charge!” is the title of a great little paperback book by Joe Bast and Herbert Walberg published by the Heartland Institute a few years ago. The book is a steal at $4.50, but you can download a free version of it at the Heartland website. It’s a must read for anyone wanting a succinct, yet rather thorough explanation of the key to genuine school reform.

The new school year begins following a month of rather raucous congressional town hall meetings. An awakened electorate is riled up about the prospects of a government take over of health care. A similar awakening is needed when it comes to the public school system – which was long ago over-run by government bureaucrats.

We’ll never see the kind of reform we need of America’s government-run school system until parents are in put back in charge. Consider these facts relayed by columnist and economist Walter Williams:

“The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international comparison of 15-year-olds conducted by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that measures applied learning and problem-solving ability.

In 2006, U.S. students ranked 25th of 30 advanced nations in math and 24th in science.

McKinsey & Company, in releasing its report ‘The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools’ (April 2009) said, ‘Several other facts paint a worrisome picture.

First, the longer American children are in school, the worse they perform compared to their international peers… In other words, American students are farthest behind just as they are about to enter higher education or the workforce.’

That’s a sobering thought. The longer kids are in school and the more money we spend on them, the further behind they get.”

Williams also writes:

  • “The teaching establishment and politicians have hoodwinked taxpayers into believing that more money is needed to improve education.”
  • “Any long-term solution to our education problems requires the decentralization that can come from competition.”
  • “Public education has become a highly centralized government-backed monopoly and we shouldn’t be surprised by the results.”

In less than 100 small pages, the Joe Bast/Herbert Walberg book outlines the problems and the solutions. They open with a call to action – challenging readers to not just sit on the sidelines and watch. They ask, “will you be one of those duped by the rhetoric and slogans of the anti-reform interest groups…?”

The smooth talking Obama Administration hasn’t been able to fool the public when it comes to their plans for health care. This brings hope that the “it’s for the children” public-relations-on-steroids which emanates from the taxpayer funded school system will eventually lose its effectiveness.

When it comes to education, the empowering of parents isn’t really any different from the disempowering that ObamaCare would seek to accomplish when it comes to health care. Bast and Walberg sum it up – it comes down to who has the power:

“Today, tax dollars raised for education go to government agencies, to be distributed by politicians and bureaucrats based on their priorities and interests… [P]arents have little control over what those schools teach or the policies they adopt. Other people, some elected and many not, have that power.”

* * *

“Under a voucher program, the money goes to parents, putting them back in charge of their children’s education…Schools must compete for the privilege of teaching their children, the same way nearly every other producer of goods and services in America must compete to win our business.”

Up next: Part 2.