Huge changes are on the horizon in education. In the 80s the homeschooling movement began and it continues to gain steam today. In the 90’s came charter schools and the first cases upholding the constitutionality of school choice programs. In this century came online schooling, and it is growing rapidly. Yet, in spite of these advances, progress in education remains painfully slow. As powerful as American innovation is, it cannot completely overcome government’s monopolistic grip on education.
This is probably the most important reason I support Warren Petersen for the Arizona Senate. His opponents have made education the center of their campaign. The implicit complaint seems to be that government education isn’t being funded well enough. But improving education is not going to come from continuing to give government schools everything they ask for. Multiple decades of experience and data have made that painfully undeniable. It is going to come from breaking up the single payer education system and inviting more private investment, which by implication means more innovation.
In the most recent legislative session the Senate passed universal education savings accounts, which would divert money from government schools and put it in the hands of parents to spend on their child’s education in the way they see fit, should the parent choose to educate their child outside the government system. Most conservatives know that a single payer healthcare system would be a disaster. Yet, it somehow escapes many of us that a single payer education system is the reason educational achievement is so sluggish.
Because education is run by government, education budgeting issues become political questions rather than questions of need, efficiency, or common sense. And so, as with most political questions, the education funding issue is dumbed down to the pithiest statements that can fit onto a mailer or sign. If you don’t want to give government schools everything they ask for it must be that you don’t want kids to be educated. Worse, is that government education has tended to sap the public’s imagination about alternative solutions to education problems. There cannot possibly be any other way to educate the masses other than a government-run model developed in 19th century Prussia. That is the way that we all grew up and we turned out fine.
But of course, there are numerous ways to educate children, many we know of and many that have yet to be devised by entrepreneurs who will flood the market if universal education savings accounts were passed (and implemented correctly). And this country is not the same as it was a generation ago. National control, the breakdown of the family, and the cultural revolution of the baby boomers have all combined to undermine the government’s ability to manage education effectively. It is not simply an issue of funding. Only the private sector can make the needed adjustments to accommodate individual need and rapidly changing employer demands.
That is why we need Warren Petersen. Passing universal education savings accounts will be controversial and difficult. It will take someone who understands and will be a strong advocate for the underlying principles of liberty and markets that drive this important education reform. So, if education is one of your primary concerns in this election, real improvement is most likely to be realized with Warren Petersen.