Don't misunderstand me; I fully know and believe that the majority of public-school teachers and principals are dedicated and highly qualified. I know some. But I also know that more often than not, even their hands are being tied by bureaucratic red tape, federal and state regulations, and teachers unions? special interests, agendas and contracts. By and large, teachers are good, but government regulation and teachers unions are a menace and impediment to real public education reform.
The fact is, as "Waiting for ?Superman?" also documents, the federal government has gone from spending $4,300 per student in 1971 to more than $9,000 today (and that?s adjusted for inflation and costs of living). In our spending double, one would think we?re getting double the results, but most of our public schools are worse off now than they were in 1971.
From coast to coast, reading and math scores have flat-lined since then. In Connecticut, only 35 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in math. In Alabama, that number is only 18 percent, and in California, it?s only 24 percent.
And when the nation?s eighth-graders were tested in reading proficiency, most states scored between 20 and 35 percent of grade level, with the absolute lowest scores in reading being in the nation?s capital, Washington, D.C., where only 12 percent of eighth-graders are proficient.
I discussed last week how we all can fight to improve U.S. public education. But if our local schools aren?t imparting a quality education or reforming fast enough to do so for our children, then we must seek educational alternatives. The minds, hearts and future of our children and nation are on the line.
But choice is something the feds and teachers unions are not exactly thrilled about offering. In fact, President Barack Obama's appointed secretary of education, Arne Duncan, explained in an NPR interview, "I'm a big believer in choice and competition, but I think we can do that within the public-school framework."
Our children deserve the best education we can give them. We can?t be satisfied by failed government-run schools that don?t provide the level of education we want. But there are alternatives, and I would encourage you to look into them. Charter, parochial and private schools and home-school co-ops are a few. Gena and I are very committed to home-schooling our 9-year-old twins.
'Superman' is not going to rise up in the ranks of the federal government or teachers unions. He or she is going to rise up from within our homes.
In this respect, "Superman" Christopher Reeve had it right: "A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."
(In my next two articles, I will discuss some possible solutions to this horrendous problem.)