President Barack Obama said on NBC on Monday he would like American children to spend more time in public schools. Here is a better idea: American children should spend no time in public schools.
County by county, state by state, Americans should begin functionally abolishing government-run schools and replacing them with a free market in schools. On the federal level, Congress should kill the Department of Education by choking off its funding. The department was not constitutional in the first place.
Everybody's children should get the same chance Obama's children have had to attend the private school of their parents' choice.
American children should have the opportunity not only to attend schools where they are well instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic, but also where they are unambiguously taught that our Declaration of Independence is right -- that God is the Author of our rights and that even the government must obey His laws.
We should aim for a society where children spend more time with their most important teachers, their parents, and less time with the less important teachers at their school.
Obama wants the opposite. And he does not want our children spending more time with just any teachers, but with government teachers -- who often double as liberal propagandists seeking to indoctrinate children with values contrary to those they learn at home, while failing to teach them reading, writing and arithmetic.
"I think we should have a longer school year," Obama said on NBC. "We now have our kids go to school about a month less than most other advanced countries. And that makes a difference. It means that kids are losing a lot of what they learn during the summer."
Obama then made a class-war argument to defend his point -- in the process taking a snotty swipe at what he presumes to be the inferior reading habits of lower-income families.
"It's especially severe for poorer kids who may not be seeing as many books in their house during the summers, aren't getting supplemental educational activities," Obama said. "So, the idea of a longer school year, I think, makes sense."
In keeping with his Marxist analysis, Obama pointed to the education system in the People's Republic of China -- a nation governed by the Communist Party -- as a model for the United States to emulate when it comes to dealing with teachers.
"When I travel to China, for example," said Obama, "and I sit down with the mayor of Shanghai, and he talks about the fact that teaching is considered one of the most prestigious jobs and a teacher's getting paid the same as an engineer, that, I think, accounts for how well they're doing in terms of boosting their education system."
Obama's unstated assumption: Central planners, not the free market, ought to determine the value of a particular job and who gets paid what.
I say: Let the market decide -- especially in education.
The greatest problem with primary and secondary education in America today is precisely that it is dominated by government-run schools that people are compelled by force of law to pay for whether they like them or not and whether they send their children there or not. The second greatest problem is that the political power controlling these government-run schools has become increasingly centralized, gradually removing decision-making from local communities, passing it up to the state and federal level.
On NBC, Obama made clear he wants to use increased federal education spending to increase federal leverage over local schools, forcing policy changes preferred by him. That would move power in exactly the wrong direction.
The historical record compiled by the Department of Education itself shows that increased government spending on education does not improve the academic performance of government schools.
"From 1989-90 to 2006-07, total expenditures per student in public elementary and secondary schools rose from $8,748 to $11,839 (a 35 percent increase in 2008-09 constant dollars), with most of the increase occurring after 1997-98," says the Education Department's The Condition of Education 2010.
In 1980, 17-year-old students in public schools earned an average score of 284 out of 500 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. In 2008, they still scored 284. Despite increased per pupil spending, the needle did not move.
In 1999, 17-year-old students in American public schools earned an average score of 307 out of 500 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress math test. In 2008, they scored 305. The needle moved in the wrong direction.
Every community in America should give all parents a voucher equal to what it now pays per-pupil for its public schools, allowing those parents to use those vouchers at any school they choose. Let the market decide if government-run schools survive.