Is Put Our Kids First recommending that public education be made obsolete?
No. An unregulated voucher system would likely create another set of problems.
The best model occurs when there is the proper mix of governmental oversight, and fair competition. With the present system, public education is a state-run monopoly, with little competition or accountability. Granting parents more choices will create innovation, and minimize the bureaucracy and stagnation which are ailing too many of our public schools.
Many parents are happy with their public schools, and even with the power of choice, they may opt to keep their child in the local public school.
Our goal is not to promote charter or private, over public. There are some public schools which are as good as any K-12 school in the country.
We envision a system of education in which parents will have many choices, including a traditional public school.
Public education accepts all without question. Will an educational system based on parental choice leave the most vulnerable of our children in jeopardy?
Put Our Kids First is not advocating a 100% market based school system. Put Our Kids First is committed to the creation of an educational system in which parents would be afforded the opportunity to select a state-certified public, charter, or private school, within their district. The state money then follows the child; consequently, individual schools compete for children. In order for state-certified schools to participate within the system, safeguards would be in place to insure that special need children are protected, just as they are now with the present system.
Does Put Our Kids First endorse vouchers?
Put Our Kids First envisions an educational system in which parents will have many quality choices.
At the present time, the system is designed to limit competition. It is our goal to see the cap on charter schools raised, and to reduce the bureaucratic barriers of entry for private schools to receive state funding. While reducing bureaucratic barriers is an important goal of our organization, we are not promoting an unregulated system of education. Any charter or private school applicant which applies for state funding, would be required to be state-certified.
If the word voucher is implied to give parents the autonomy to take their per pupil expenditure, and spend the money on schools which are not state-certified, then Put Our Kids First would not endorse such an unregulated system.
If the word voucher implies that parents have the autonomy to apply their child's per pupil expenditure to a state-certified school, then Put Our Kids First would endorse this type of voucher system.
Would parental choice undermine collective bargaining agreements?
It is not our goal to undermine the pay and benefits of teachers. It should be noted that our efforts are not anti-teacher; they are focused on changing the system. We would make the argument that effective teachers should be paid more, and would in fact be paid more, when the various layers of bureaucracy in the current system are reduced.
We do not believe however, that a child should spend an entire year with an ineffective teacher who is protected by tenure. We also believe that teacher pay should be based on talent, and not time on the job.
Should public funds be used for religious schools?
It is our belief that public funds may not be compatible with religious schools.
While religious schools provide viable choices for many parents, this potential combination is problematic. What happens if the religious school becomes an extremist, anti-American school paid for with public funds?
This is a significant question, and it should be noted that the Supreme Court has left the opportunity open for public funds to be used for religious schools.
How does Put Our Kids First view No Child Left Behind?
The Bush administration appears to realize that parental choice is not politically possible at this time. They also realize that our country is in an educational crisis which threatens the future success of the United States. No Child Left Behind appears to be an attempt by the federal government to correct an ineffective system of education, through the creation of a large federal bureaucracy.
It is the opinion of Put Our Kids First that innovation and educational excellence will not be triggered by a large federal mandate. Innovation is triggered by consumer choice and regulated competition. Ultimately, educational excellence will occur when parents and teachers have significant autonomy in shaping the guidelines which most influence our children.
As the world becomes more connected, it will be important to know how Americans rank with students of other countries. Consequentially, it is of national interest for our country to set academic goals and to test accordingly.
It is our opinion, however, that with the implementation of parental choice, the federal government will be able to significantly reduce the scope of No Child Left Behind.
Are parents qualified to increase their level of participation, and can they make informed educational decisions such as school choice?
In many surveys, teachers cite parental detachment as a fundamental problem within our system of education. It is our belief that parental choice will increase the level of interaction between parents and teachers.
Many educators also believe that some parents will not have the objectivity to select qualified teachers. It is interesting to note that the argument of “citizen incompetence” was used for decades in disallowing blacks and women the right to vote. Nonetheless, we do not deny that some parents may make poor educational decisions, and their kids may end up in the same uninspiring classrooms.
While some parents may find a way to not participate in a school of choice process, it is our contention that choice, and the resulting competition of ideas, will revolutionize American education.