My Minnesota: shall we get rid of public education?

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The Center for the American Experiment, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, the Heritage Foundation, and the Freedom Institute are all among those currently voicing their belief that education in this country will only work if it is private.

Compare that theory to a statement made upon the opening a new school in Danube, MN, USA, in 1953:

“Were it not for public education, the average citizen of the United States would be no different than the most ignorant inhabitant of the most backward country of the world.”

Opinion: Shall we get rid of public education?

Now Minnesota is considered by many to be the number one place in the U.S. to get an education. It’s consistently listed in the top three or four best places to live, and in the top three or four places with the healthiest citizens. There are 17 Fortune 500 companies in this state. A common issue relating to all these factors is the high level of education currently enjoyed in Minnesota.

But it hasn’t always been this way. In the 1950s and 60s, Minnesota made a commitment to change its image from a frozen farm state along the Canadian border to a leader in education in the U.S. Thanks to Governors C. Elmer Anderson (Rep.) and Orville Freeman (Dem.), Minnesota made serious commitments to provide its citizens with the best education it could come up with. It established a system that featured local school boards as governing bodies for schools and in charge of education for the state. These local school boards remain a mainstay in the strength of education in Minnesota today. Local board members are from the community in which the district is located, they know personally the parents, students, the community itself, and are thus much better equipped to determine the needs, desires, and best interests of the students and district they represent.

But schools today are under a serious and concentrated attack by those who would change this very fabric of our educational system – and the fabric of our society as well.

As I see it, for these people to be successful, America has to be convinced of four things:

1) Public education is failing. You’ll hear this from every level of government, from state up to the federal. But in fact, the opposite is true. Schools are doing a better job today with a more different population of students than ever before in history. This is being done in spite of unfunded government mandates/inadequate funding.

2) Politicians in St. Paul and Washington, D.C., know what the needs and interests of a given local community are better than the people who live there. This idea is inherently and patently false; there’s no way it can be true.

3) School choice is needed to encourage public schools to improve via competition. At the moment, we are to believe that charter schools all over the country are better than public schools. But they’re not. With very few exceptions, charter schools are showing significantly lower test scores than public schools. I want to state here that I am not against charter schools, but I do take extreme exception with people telling me charter schools are better, when they are not.

4) Vouchers are the answer to a failed public school system. That by providing vouchers, paying money to people, they can send their children to private schools and get a better education. That’s untrue because research shows that, comparing apples to apples (public schools, remember, have to take all students), private schools do not do a better overall job. Vouchers take public taxpayer money and get them into private institutions in this country. Once government money is in these institutions, government control will surely follow. For this reason, to me, private schools should be leading the fight against vouchers.

Please note that school choice has always been available to citizens of the U.S. How people choose to educate their kids, in a public school, at home, in a private, religious, or parochial school, has always been their choice and continues to be. What seems to be added to the mix now is that if you do choose to send children to a school other than a public one, you should be relieved of the tax duty to public education. No. You are not relieved of the duty of a citizen by choice, but you aren’t prevented from making that choice either. (The Minnesota Constitution legislates only two main taxpayer responsibilities; number one is education, number two is roads.)

So let’s assume that certain people are successful in destroying public education, in convincing the public that they’re right. That public education, as it is, should be dismantled. Then, as Phil Krinkie, former MN legislator and current president of the Taypayers League of Minnesota (made up largely, by the way, of “taxpaying” billionaires), has suggested, we would have 100 to 200 (non-voucher) students in high school classrooms (“like college”).

No. I think that every brick removed from the foundation of public education in the U.S. makes it that much harder for there to be equality in the one nation in the history of the world that professes a belief that all men are created equal.

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