FILE - School Choice

Several hundred students, parents, teachers and elected officials, participate in a school choice rally, part of the National School Choice Week, on the steps of the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019.

“If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

– Benjamin Franklin

America just witnessed another successful National School Choice week. There were a record number of celebratory events focusing on the many educational options available to families. Once again this proved Americans remain focused on getting the biggest bang for their education bucks. Since school choice seems like such an obviously good idea, it makes many of us wonder why we need an entire week dedicated to it. It's because some people just don’t understand why we need it.

Jimmy Carter signed public education’s death certificate when he created the dreaded Department of Education. Public education existed for centuries before Carter federalized it to reward the National Education Association (NEA) for endorsing his 1976 presidential campaign. While he kept his promise to them, he did this at the expense of every U.S. child. Upon signing this monster into law, Carter said, “Now federal government can more effectively and efficiently manage education.”

The federal government had limited influence on education when it was part of the Department of Health Education and Welfare. With the creation of the DOE, national authority superceded local control over education. Federalizing cradle to grave dictatorial curriculum empowered government over parents and their children.

“The result of our efforts will speak for themselves.”

– Jimmy Carter

When curriculum was the sole responsibility of the states, it was easy to make decisions where and how to school our children. Since education is funded by local tax dollars, people would buy homes in markets where they paid higher taxes for schools they preferred. Others that wanted a religious education would opt for faith-based schools. Some choose private academies with a college prep curriculum or even trade schools. Education was a decision made by parents, not the government.

Carter claimed the Department of Education would level the education playing field to insure all students were equally prepared for any job they wanted. While that was a noble idea, it was not a realistic goal or one that appealed to U.S. parents. One size fits all education never has and never will work. Since the federalization of education, local public schools have become a quagmire of federal failures.

“Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”

– T. S. Eliot

National School Choice Week was inspired by Milton Freeman to inform Americans they can do it better than government. Parents are reminded that magnet, charter, religious, and private schools, along with vouchers and home schooling are alternatives to public education. But one salient issue is often overlooked during school choice week; it gives us a chance to reflect upon education that prepares students for local careers. And that is where the rubber meets the road in local education.

George Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 proved impracticable since it set unrealistic standards for reading and math. Obama used 2009 stimulus money to bribe schools into his Race To The Top scam. His goal was for every child to get a college degree. But student ability and aptitude were never considered, nor were there provisions for service industry jobs. According to NPR ED, school districts across the U.S. artificially boosted numbers to get more federal money.

“Don't be afraid to ask questions if you feel stupid. Believe me, I do it every day.”

– Barack Obama

In 1990, Project Common Core State Standards (CCSS) was a movement to establish standardized education by the American Diploma Project. It outlined a national education reform movement. The plan was hatched with high hopes as 40 states signed on immediately. Even Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared, “This is a historic moment in our American education history.”

A recent study by the Center for Standards, Alignment, Instruction, and Learning shows that a decade after its roll out, Common Core has been a total disaster. Across the board, Common Core standards produced significant negative effects at all grade levels. According to the Boston-based Pioneer Institute, Common Core’s politically driven process resulted in the adoption of curriculum that promoted “the progressive instructional dogmas shared by its developers in liberal states.”

In his 2011 State of the Union, Obama praised Common Core while government was rewriting our history books and censoring all religious materials. He allowed sensitive issues such as same sex marriage and transgender bathroom tolerance to be taught in the classrooms and bragged about it. This opened the floodgates for a renewed interest in any and all alternatives to public education.

“I support an education program that teaches children about equality and fairness.”

– Bernie Sanders

Critics refer to Common Core as “ObamaCore” considering its failure rate is equal to the botched job Obama did socializing our free market healthcare. Both Common Core and Obamacare were ambitious efforts to change whole swaths of American life with federal intervention into state and free market rights they had no authority getting involved in. Both violated our states rights. And now Americans have both lousy healthcare and education since the federalists took them over.

John F. Kennedy reminded us, “Every crisis brings us new opportunities.” From Jimmy Carter’s creation of the DOE to Obama’s head-long plunge into Common Core, Americans realized the need to reconsider how they educate their children. Moving from one place to another for better schools today is a crap shoot. The days are long gone when you can escape bad curriculum since the federalization of local public education. School choice is no longer choosing what public school is better. Today, school choice is a necessity to isolate children from the long arm of federalism.

Americans should always have the freedom to choose how and where to school their children. But there is only one way to fix public education. We must shut down the Department of Education and repeal Common Core and eliminate the dictatorial teachers unions. It is up to us to tell Washington to keep their hands off education and do what they’re paid to do: Because all education is local, not federal.

“Education doesn't begin with some isolated bureaucrat in Washington.”

– Ronald Reagan

School choice is a proven value. That's why there are thousands of private schools and programs such as charter schools, vouchers and home schooling efforts to choose from. It is also embedded in our real estate markets. Yet many parents still feel school choice is an unaffordable luxury since public education is free. They are fooling themselves. It is funded by their property taxes. And each school is dependent on where you live, and the taxes you pay. There is no such thing as one size fits all education. But we’d see an instant improvement in education without federal intervention.

If we had local control over education our students would be better prepared for college, and we’d be able to train others to immediately fill high-paying service industry jobs. Everyone would win.

“It is time for us to re-examine the existing activities of government and to make an assessment of the activities that are theirs and those that are ours. Education is ours, not theirs.”

– Milton Freeman

Contributing Columnist

William Haupt III is a retired professional journalist, author, and citizen legislator in California for over 40 years. He got his start working to approve California Proposition 13.