Education and School Choice
Education is one of the most expensive government services and should be expected to provide some of the best returns on our investment. Unfortunately, the discussions on improving education typically revolve around throwing more money at a system that was designed well before the current information age. As we have seen during the COVID-19 crisis, alternative education solutions are readily available and convenient for many students. These "out of the box" solutions that use modern technology and innovative approaches can save money and provide more prosperous and diverse educational opportunities to different types of students.
Here in Texas, the challenges in education are unique and daunting with areas of dense population and areas of extremely sparse population. These increase traditional education costs, and our razor-thin budget makes our current funding models more challenging. Texas should allow more "real world" education including earlier job training opportunities, flexible start times for schools, more extensive use of mobile information and computer devices, and alternative types of learning mediums. Asking student to take just one online class per semester reduces real costs by millions of dollars. Choice in education for both parents and students is essential to improving education performance and reducing the burden on the state budget and overworked educators.
A Libertarian Perspective
I get it. Libertarians like me are often accused of opposing public education merely as an extension of our generalized distrust of the government, but our antipathy in this area involves so much more than that. We have watched - as educators, as parents, as former (and current) students, and as employees - as our public schools waste resources, traumatize students, frustrate families, and generally fail us all. And it only becomes worse as the years pass, and as more money is poured into the system as a supposed panacea for its inadequacies. So it stands to reason that those of us who don't trust the government to manage our healthcare or our money systems might also have an issue with trusting the government to educate our children, or with political talking heads arrogantly assuring us that they know best how to meet the educational needs of every child.
Here's what I propose. Let's remove the barriers to school choice and put the financial resources that have been stripped from Texans in the form of school taxes back into the hands of parents to help them fund their own educational choices for their students. I want the government to get out of the way of actual education experts, innovators, and creators. I want those people to bring us new, different, and better platforms, methods, tools, and materials for learning. I want student to have a safe, appropriate, peaceful, non-coercive educational environment in which to develop relationships with their peers and develop skills for life-long learning. But more importantly, I want today's students - tomorrow's leaders - to be quantifiably smarter than we are today. It is my belief that in taking these steps, we will begin the larger journey that will allow Texas's students to lead us, and possibly the country, into the future.
Texas's Future Leaders
Economist Thomas Sowell is quoted as saying "It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club. It was the Wright Brothers who got us off the ground, not the Federal Aviation Administration. It was Henry Ford who ended the isolation of millions of Americans my making the automobile affordable, not Ralph Nader. Those who have helped the poor the most have not been those who have gone around loudly expressing 'compassion' for the poor, but those who found ways to make industry more productive and distribution more efficient, so that the poor of today can afford the things that the affluent of yesterday could only dream about."
Think about it. Predictability and conformity are programmed into (and expected from) machines. But in today's world, it is the unique, the unexpected, and the unpredictable that has been leading the way into the future. Innovation, creativity, ingenuity, mold-breaking - these are what we should be cultivating in our educational opportunities. This is what will set Texas ahead of the rest of the country if we - you and I - have the fortitude to enable it. But to do this, educators and creators of educational materials must be innovative, ingenious, and non-conformist.
"From the point of ignition to the final drive, the point of a journey is not to arrive."
I support school choice because I believe that educators and students (along with their parents) should be able to work directly with each other to establish their own standards, timelines, and costs. I support school choice because it promotes competition which, in turn, breeds innovation, cost-effectiveness, and better outcomes for our students - which means better outcomes for all of us.
If we are sincere in our desire to create a better future for Texas, then we need to start by allowing our students - Texas's future leaders - to be better.