Want more educational success? Support charter schools – Guest Opinion by Ari Kaufman

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Self-styled Progressives love to mock America as a “laughingstock” compared to the rest of the world in terms of obesity or gun violence or whatever topic they can obfuscate. 

One area where our great nation truly does lag behind the world is public education, a business solely owned and operated by the Left. And they have zero interest in remedying the failures; only the Right does.

Whereas the USA leads the world in everything from charitable giving, military might and medical innovation to technology, natural gas production and so many more laudable areas, any intellectually honest observer will note we fall far short in K-12 schooling.

In the wealthiest nation on earth, this is rather troubling. But the shortcomings in public education have nothing to do with money or results would have improved long ago. 

American taxpayers pay an absurd $20,000 per student per year from Kindergarten through 12th grade. That ridiculous amount is nearly double the global average of around $11,000. We also pay public school teachers on average more than any country. Yet the average student in Canada, China, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Norway and other nations that liberals tend to admire, consistently outperform the USA in every subject — despite spending less per pupil!

While no single policy solution can ameliorate these historic pitfalls going back nearly a century, because the issues are so vast, one area achieving grand success are charter schools and voucher programs. These initiatives, which began in 1992 in Minnesota, have long been deemed by scholars and conservative politicians as the “civil rights issue” of our time. The left talks a good game about “civil rights” when they seek votes and power, but on real matters, they balk.

I taught for five years in our country’s second largest school district — with one of the most aggressive and powerful teachers unions — and witnessed public education’s myriad issues firsthand in Los Angeles. I’ve documented them now for nearly two decades with a book and dozens of published articles in various newspapers.

Intense resistance to proven educational successes such as merit pay, tenure extension and any needed reform was intense; charter schools were specifically anathema. While Republicans have long supported charter schools and voucher programs, most Democrats are beholden to corrupt teachers unions and therefore do not. 

When asked about charter schools during their Sept. 12 presidential debate, leading Democrats, including Cory Booker who’s seen their success in his beloved Newark, conveniently tiptoed around the issue. He and the others on stage preferred to change the subject, bash the education secretary or, in the case of Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, angrily shout “pay teachers more” clichés. 

Charter and magnet schools are often based in local townships within a city’s boundaries, and thus, not bound by the bureaucracy and size of sclerotic large districts. Uniforms are frequently donned by diverse populations, discipline is enhanced, while students’ and teachers’ attitudes often change with liberation from outdated guidelines. These schools break the monopoly of “one-size-fits-all” education. Usually located just a few miles from urban decay, it’s a different world. 

Charter schools post higher results across the board than the traditional monopoly we’ve had from time immemorial. Further expansion of school choice options has the potential to liberate children, particularly poorer ones, from a dysfunctional education. The effort is worth it. Most of the country is on board; Democrat powers-that-be, teachers and unions protecting them are not.  They remain adept at perpetuating underachievement.

Evidence also shows more money for schools does not lead to success and often simply ways to waste the funds. In reform circles, there is the infamous Kansas City study, where the large district dramatically increased funding by billions in the 1980s and 1990s. This included increasing teacher salaries, adding glistening swimming pools, fancy computer labs and more. Was there an improvement in test scores and other quantitative results? Of course not. Nor was there more racial integration. Oops. This should be a telling lesson.

In addition to the absurd  “more money for schools” line peddled by vacuous politicians like Harris, a common ignorant retort toward education reformers is that those pushing for change are “anti school” or worse. With urban schools crippling our country’s most vulnerable (minority) children, advocating for experimentation with vouchers is actually “pro child.” It is progress. It is also consistent with America’s free market aspirations.

There were fewer than 2,500 charter schools when George W. Bush came into office. Eight years later, the number had doubled to nearly 5,000, and continues to grow a decade later. 

The former president’s words stand true today:

“These diverse, creative schools are proof that parents from all walks of life are willing to challenge the status quo if it means a better education for their children,” Bush said. “More competition and more choices for parents and students will raise the bar for everyone.”

Between the radical political agendas, insouciance toward students and lack of innovation, I ultimately lost the energy to keep teaching. Attempts to buck the trend and assist students were fought like the Battle of Antietam. I got along well with the parents and loved instructing the kids. But the resistance to change and browbeating of anyone seeking change demoralized me. 

Since leaving the profession and embarking on other careers, I published an entire book and dozens of articles on educational reform in various newspapers. I try so hard. Sadly, I continue to marvel at the preservation of a failed status quo. It clearly does not have to be this way.

Author: Thomas

I'm a small town boy living in the heart of Iowa watching the world go by with my wife and dog.

One thought on “Want more educational success? Support charter schools – Guest Opinion by Ari Kaufman”

  1. Very interesting! I did not realize the cost per student was so astronomical. And that the extra funds put into technology etc. yielded no better results. More competition and different ways of thinking are a good thing. Why all be brainwashed the same way if there’s no significant progress in the results?

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