Pro school choice


    I can understand how people can get emotional over such weighty issues as roof heights, overzealous zoning enforcement, and crowing roosters — but the discussion about our responsibilities as parents for our children’s education should not take place in hyperbolic rhetoric but rather with an earnest, frank discussion of the situation. Wafting Spam aside, Mr. Gates and Ms. Roney point out in their letters last week that it is “shameful” for California to spend so little on its children’s education, and that we shouldn’t “allow a small group of property owners to render null and void the wishes of the majority.” Perhaps a quick look at the facts will guide us to a better understanding of the problem.

    First, California is one of 13 states which require a supermajority (+66 percent) of voters to decide bond and other taxation issues. It only required a simple majority 50.1 percent to pass this law. Was that “rendering null and void the will of the majority?” Most adult citizens pay for education, even renters — through rental costs passed on to them. Secondly, we may be shocked to learn this but as a nation, the United States spends more money per pupil than all but two other nations (Austria and Switzerland). Furthermore, we outspend England by 31 percent, France by 13 percent and Japan by 33 percent, yet would we say that for all this expense our children are better educated? Total spending in United States schools rose 200 percent from 1960 to 1992, yet would we say that our children now learn twice as much?

    It seems like nearly every day the Los Angeles Times prints an article about waste, fraud and incompetence perpetrated by the local school district. The teachers are not deciding to build classrooms on toxic waste sites, government bureaucrats are — and they are the very same unaccountable minions who have driven a once respected school system into the near chaos it now lies in. A Realtor friend of mine always cautions not to throw good money after bad — or in Far Eastern parlance, a fish rots from the head. I am quite happy that we have a two-thirds majority vote in place to keep these bureaucrats reigned in, and I would love to see more accountability for the colossal mistakes they make with our money. We don’t need to give them more money — we need to entertain a new educational funding paradigm.

    If there is any villain here, it has to be viewed as the tyranny of the state monopoly on education and spending. When government–run school systems are forced to be competitive, they become responsive. It’s amazing what just a few experiments in parental school choice have yielded nationwide. Parents are listened to, and kids learn more. As a taxpayer, I am fed up with this government monopoly on schools and school tax revenues. We pay the fees, we should decide where our money is spent — on schools for our kids that deliver what we pay for, not schools which statist elites say we must continue to support, unthinkingly. We owe our kids a permanent fix to the educational problem, not ever larger and costly Band–Aid remedies. Opponents of school choice fear parental independence on this issue — not because it won’t work but because it will.

    Bruce Schultz