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HomeIllinois NewsThorner: Heartland's Patriot's Toolbox Speakers Series Highlights Today's Mediocrity in Education

Thorner: Heartland’s Patriot’s Toolbox Speakers Series Highlights Today’s Mediocrity in Education



Vicki-alger-women-for-school-choice-speaks-at-csueb-jan-30-20131By Nancy Thorner - 

"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" was discussed at The Heartland Institute on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, at what was a continuation of The Patriot's Toolbox Speakers series.  It can be viewed here.

Discussed was Chapter 3 in the Fourth Edition of The Patriot's Toolbox, Elementary and Secondary Education, which was written by Joseph L. Bast and Vicki Alger (pictured right).  The first edition of The Patriot's Toolbox was released in 2010.  The new and completely rewritten and thoroughly updated Fourth Edition Patriot's Toolbox reflect the events of 2016 and part of 2017 up until its publication.  As stated in the preface of The Patriot's Toolbox, the new edition offers an agenda for incumbent office holders, a platform for candidates for public office, and a report card for civic and business leaders and policies moves of the Trump administration, Congress, and state lawmakers. 

Featured guest speaker, Vicki Alger, as co-author of The Patriot's Toolbox with Joe Bast, spoke of her association with The Heartland Institute for 15 tears.  Ms. Alger is well qualified to write about education as a research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, CA and author of the book Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America's Children.  She also holds senior fellowships at the Fraser Institute in Vancouver, British Columbia and the Independent Women's Forum in Washington, D.C. Viki Alger lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she is president and CEO of Vicki Murray & Associates LLC.

About our Education Descent from Good to Ugly

Education has always been a high priority for Americans. The Founding Fathers knew a free society would be impossible without an educated population.  According to Thomas Jefferson, "An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people."

During America's first century, most schooling was done at home or in small schools run by civil institutions such as churches or private societies.  Early in the Progressive Era; however, state governments gradually took over responsibility for providing elementary and secondary schooling.

While private schools continue to operate today, about nine out of every 10 students in the United States attend schools that are owned, operated, and staffed by government employees.  About 70% of the teachers in those schools belong to unions, working under workplace rules that frustrate the best and brightest while protecting incompetent and even dangerous teachers.

Today, 15 years after the Hoover’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education, evidence of inadequate public-school performance continues to emerge.  The eleven-member task force first met in 1999 and established as its mission to present pertinent facts about K–12 education, contribute to the debate with constructive commentary, and generate new ideas for education reform. The results:

Just 37% of public high school seniors nationwide scored proficient or better on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment and only 25% in math.

Proportionally fewer American students perform as well as students in other economically advanced nation.  From 2009 to 2015, American students' math and science performance rankings dropped to 40% to 25% respectively.

The national high school graduation rate now exceeds 80%, indicating that nearly one in five students drop out before graduating. 

Conclusions Point to Mediocrity

  • Having government own and operate schools is only one way to deliver K-12 schooling. Experience is teaching us that it may not be the best way.
  • America's government schools are simply not good enough.  They are poor compared to schools in the past, compared to schools in other developed countries, and compared to the schools we should want and expect. 
  • Government schools in America are well funded.  The problem is that the funding is going to support staff and bureaucracy, and schools are unable to attract and retain the best teachers.
  • The biggest problems facing K-12 education in America today are institutional — perverse incentives caused by a system that rewards the wrong behavior and discourages excellence

From 1960 – 2015 enrollment increased 40%, but federal, state, and local spending increased over 400%.  We are spending more on education than we do on defense.  From 1990 – 2015 the average amount spent per child for $13,000.  Much of the money spent is going to support the bureaucracy and staff.  Ms. Alger believes more money should be going to great teachers.

School Choice Programs Benefit Students and Teachers

Competition and choice are appropriate and necessary in an educational system, just as the ensure the efficient delivery of virtually all the other goods and services we need.

Parents also have the legal right to direct the education of their children and should be allowed to choose the schools their children attend.

School choice is popular.  All total these programs are helping nearly 1.4 million students and families access the education option that works best for them.

  • Vouchers — which allow public funds to be used to pay for tuition at private schools currently operate in 25 states and Washington, D.C.  Charts displayed documented that private schools achieve more for less money. 8th Grade NAEPO private school math proficiency from 1990- 2005 was 15 points higher.  Measuring the same 8th grade NAEPO reading proficiency from 1992-2015 private school students scored 20 points higher.
  • Tax-credit scholarships — which offer tax breaks to donors to scholarship-granting entities — operate in 22 states.
  • An additional eight states have tax credit or deduction laws that allow taxpayers to get back from their state governments some part of the amount they spend on private school tuition. 
  • Education savings accounts (ESAs) — which allow parents to withdraw their children from public schools and have their associated state funding deposited into dedicated-use savings accounts — exist in six states.  Arizona became the first state in 2011 to adopt education savings accounts into law.  It was called "Empowerment Scholarship Accounts," and was offered first only to children with special needs who were previously enrolled in public schools. How it works is that parents use debit cards to pay expenses and send receipt to the Department of Education each quarter for approval. Vicki Ayers favors this program because parents make the choices with no government interference. 

Although home schooling was not included on Alger's list, it was highly recommended by her. Colleges do accept home-school applicants.  Some colleges have a separate department to deal with them.  Home schooled students do very well scholastically, but it does require an amount of dedication that most parents can't commit to. 

About Common Core

Vicki Alger favors getting rid of the Department of Education.  Common Core State Standards  give the federal government too much control over education, which should be controlled by parents, students, and teachers.  Despite the claim made that Common Core's standards are rigorous and internationally bench marked, it is none of these.  Some states had more rigorous standards before they adopted Common Core standards.  Most concerning is that the curriculum of Common Core has been politicized, such as the basic historical facts and themes from American history are missing, and in science, that man is the cause of climate change which is then linked to CO2 emissions, when climate is cyclical in nature and is subject to many natural factors that man cannot control.

Thorner does differ with Alger about the four school choice programs cited as being better alternatives than public schools, for once  tax money is accepted they also get all of the regulations which results in the same mediocre education for all.

Welcoming Remarks

Introductory remarks were made by Lennie Jarratt, project manager for the Center for Transforming Education at The Heartland Institute, as to the nature of the Heartland Institute with its focus on education, environmental protection, health care, budgets and taxes, and constitutional reform, and the breadth of its outreach program   Heartland sends three monthly policy newspapers – Budget & Tax News, Environment & Climate News, and School Reform News – to every national and state elected officials in the United States and thousands of civic and business leaders.  Heartland also produces books, policy studies, booklets, podcasts, and videos. 

There after Mr. Jarratt invited Lindsey Stroud, named Heartland's State Government Relations manager in 2017, to  give an account of her activities.  Lindsey's role includes interacting with elected officials and staff, legislation tracking, and research and writing on various issues.

Lindsey's Government Relations Department has been busy this year. Currently there are 37 states in session.  Activities include providing testimony in 18 states, including Welfare Reform in Wisconsin, and a Medicaid waivers draft in Idaho.

All total the Government Relations Department visited 19 state Capitols during which legislative meetings and events were held.  Its policy team is in the process of doing research and providing commentary in 40 states on such topics as Medicaid waivers (work requirements); Direct primary care; Right to Try; Coal power plant projects in three states; Carbon taxes (defeated in Washington, Oregon); School choice options; Civil asset forfeiture; Certificate of need; Occupational licensing; Tobacco 21; and Article V/Constitutional Reform.


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