During the pandemic, remote learning forced parents to take a much more active role in their children’s education. As a result, parents across the nation observed something I, as a former public school teacher, have known for years. The battle to fundamentally transform America has been waging for decades, not at the ballot box, but inside the classroom, and, regrettably, we are losing.
Despite playing from behind, there is still time to rally. Though it will not be easy, Republicans must stand firm behind parents as they push to take back power from activist teachers’ unions, school boards, and government bureaucrats. The way to restore America’s schools is not by forcing “equity,” nor by continuing to empower the federal government, but by transferring power over curriculum design and instruction back to local parents, teachers, and communities through policies like school choice.
When Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” parents across the nation were outraged and in shock. I was not. Anyone who has spent time within the public education system knows that total and unabated control is exactly what teachers’ unions and government bureaucrats desire.
These organizations believe that only they, because of their supposed expertise, possess the answers to the issues that plague America’s flailing public schools. They also are convinced that their new, groundbreaking progressive teaching strategies and philosophies are the only viable path forward. Traditional learning methods and ideas are deemed “taboo,” outdated, or even racist. If you are someone who can muster the strength to question them, your competency as an educator is considered questionable, and a target is placed on your back. Dissent cannot and will not be tolerated.
Prior to President Jimmy Carter establishing the Department of Education in 1979, U.S. schools held a tenuous grip at the top of international rankings. Americans were told that it would not be long before developed nations around the world passed us by. True to form, liberals insisted that the only way to ensure that American students remained at the top was for states and local communities to surrender control to the federal government, and, consequently to the newly formed Department of Education. Now, four decades and hundreds of billions of dollars, as well as numerous major federal initiatives later, U.S. schools have fallen to 24th in the developed world. In addition, student proficiency in both math and science has declined at an even more rapid pace than before the federal Department of Education was founded.
Still, Democrats insist this has nothing to do with federal government incompetence . Rather, they contend the failure is the result of an inherently prejudicial educational system that lacks “equity” and, also, because they have not been given enough taxpayer dollars to implement their reforms fully and effectively. Both arguments are lunacy.
I chose to become a teacher because of my heartfelt desire to assist America’s next generation of leaders to acquire the knowledge and skills they would need to succeed and to lead our nation into the future. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I realized that the educational hierarchy, as well as many of those actively involved in public education, are more interested in pushing far-left progressive agendas and political beliefs than in educating our children. Creating a new generation of social justice warriors has taken precedence over ensuring that students are adequately prepared to succeed. Standards and expectations are drastically lowered—or eliminated altogether—to create an illusion of “equity.”
“Equity,” despite looking and sounding similar to “equality,” is a remarkably different and dangerous concept. Equality is the state of being equal in status, rights, and opportunities. It is a very American principle. Equity, on the other hand, is a concept strongly rooted in Marxism. It creates a conflict between groups or classes that can only be fixed by the government through the forcible transfer of wealth, resources, and ideas.
In schools, they assert that white children have an inherent advantage over minority students. Teachers, parents, and children are told that it is impossible, no matter how hard they work, for minority students to have the same level of success as their “privileged” white peers. Therefore, the only way to achieve “equity” in our schools is to eliminate some programs such as gifted and talented courses, to reduce academic expectations, to eliminate honor rolls and class rankings, and, as a final point, to eliminate punitive consequences for poor performance or unruly behavior.
My belief, however, is that none of these changes actually boosts student performance. Consequently, “equity” ends up meaning every student is equally unprepared and left behind. Rather than challenging our children to rise above difficulties, we are programming our children to accept mediocrity and avoid adversity. As a result, there is simply no reward for hard work and no consequences for lack of effort.
Additionally, politicians such as Joe Biden and Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), continue to claim that cuts in federal and state funding are the reasons why “revolutionary” initiatives like Common Core have failed to boost student performance. During his most recent run for the presidency, Senator Sanders continued to claim, “Over the past decade, states all over America have made savage cuts to education . . . ” Unfortunately for progressives, repeating a lie doesn’t make it true. One may be able to use the media to fool people into believing it’s true, but the data and numbers never lie.
The United States now spends over $15,000 per student in primary and secondary schools which, when adjusted for inflation, is a 260 percent increase since 1960. This is the highest rate among developed nations, and 35 percent more per student than the average countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Has this meteoric rise in spending produced positive results? According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), U.S. public school test scores in math and science declined from 2012 to 2020 for the first time in decades. The NCES tests also showed that chronically underfunded Catholic schools outperformed their public school peers.
We cannot continue blindly throwing money at the problem and expecting different results. All the money in the world will not make up for flawed dogmas, watered down standards, and curriculums that are focused more on pushing political agendas and philosophies than adequately preparing our children. If more money automatically produced better results, then why are underfunded Catholic schools outperforming public schools? When U.S. schools were performing at their best, it was because the federal government did not hold a monopoly over curriculum design and performance standards. States were allowed to compete and learn from each other.
My decision to enter politics actually came about because of my strong belief that common sense educational reform must be a priority for our nation’s lawmakers. I believe that the primary way to ensure America continues to thrive is by adequately preparing and educating our children, not indoctrinating them. It’s time to take politics out of the classroom and get back to the basics. We should be welcoming parents into the educational process—not locking them out. We should implement school choice and welcome charter schools. We should reject revisionist, racist, and divisive theories such as the “1619 Project” and critical race theory. And, of course, we should always place our children and parents ahead of teachers’ unions.
Above all, we should push our students to new heights by increasing rigor and raising performance and behavioral standards. Our children and our nation cannot afford more of the same. The time is now to give our schools back to the people.