Sunday, August 14, 2005


There was a time when your locally elected school board members had the last word on what and how your child was taught, how the district's money was spent, who graduated from high school, how teachers were trained, and who was hired or fired. Not any more.

Arizona built its education system on "local control." Once powerful and independent governing boards firmly directed each of the state's more than 220 districts and were answerable mainly to district voters. But new federal and state laws swept in a massive reform movement and swept away much of that power and independence. It has left district school board members feeling the pressure of dividing up limited money, while caught between new mandates to push basic reading and math skills and their voters, many of whom are upset about changes board members are powerless to stop. The result: parents are further from the decisions makers for their neighborhood schools, classroom lesson plans are becoming more uniform, and fewer people will become school board members. "Do I feel local control is being stepped on? In lots of ways I think I do," said Vicki Johnson, Glendale Union High School district board president. "There are times we're feeling helpless and the pressure put on us. Can I say that we like it? No."

Like it or not, this education reform movement is rolling on without, and sometimes over, locally elected school boards with unhappy results for some members. Take, for example, the drama in Phoenix's Kyrene Elementary District. Right now, some parents are collecting signatures to recall Kyrene board president Rae Waters. They are upset over what they view as Waters' vote against daily arts and music classes in favor of more reading, writing and math classes so all students will excel on state tests and district schools can continue to be ranked as top performers. "With stakes that high, school boards are put in a position of making difficult decisions," Waters said. "It's taken our choices away and in many ways, our ability to respond to community desires." Waters added: "It drives me crazy."

Newly elected Kyrene board member Mitzi Epstein already said board members and teachers tell her the district must focus on state test scores, while parents tell her they want more foreign language, art and music. "But the law said we're going to look at math, English and, soon, science and that's all," Epstein said. "Here I am stuck in the middle."

Things began to change for education in the mid 1990s when Arizona voters, as well as those across the country, appeared to lose faith in public schools and politicians began to use those doubts to gain votes. These new politicians joined state lawmakers and state business leaders in backing a reform movement. The state received the go-ahead to create grade-by-grade learning goals, known as Arizona Academic Standards, and a statewide testing system to ensure those standards were being taught in every classroom from Yuma to Chinle.

Schools where too many children fail Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards tests are shamed by being publicly ranked as "underperforming" or "failing" and face a state takeover. The state can replace a failing school's principal, take charge of its budget, reconfigure the grades on its campus; even turn over the school's management to a private company. Starting this year, students not passing the high school AIMS test will not get a diploma. "It restricts what is taught," Glendale Union board president Johnson said. "We've been accused of teaching to the test. What do you expect us to do? Kids will pay if we don't keep up. We are boxed in. I do feel boxed in as far as the mandates coming down, yes I do. It is so confining."

The state's reform movement could have been yet another of Arizona's political whims, but then the Bush Administration and Congress enacted a similar national reform program, called the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Now, federal education money is tied to every state's willingness to follow a similar path to reform. "Accountability" became an education buzzword, micromanaging schools became a national and state obsession, and Arizona school districts had few options but to conform. As federal and state laws strip away the power of locally elected district boards, some board members said parents and kids lose.

* Classroom curriculum becomes more uniform.

* Power is concentrated at the state capital and removed from the neighborhood, making it more difficult for parents to influence changes.

* The state could be forced to pay board members, as fewer and fewer people are willing to run for what has become a 30-hour-a-week volunteer job.

* There is no sign state or federal education officials will pull back on their mandates. Just the opposite, they continue to make proposals that would weaken the power of local school boards.

New federal and state mandates show no signs of softening. This year alone, some Arizona lawmakers tried to create a uniform set of text books to be used in all state schools and others wanted to require school districts to put 65 percent of their budgets into classroom spending and less into administration.

Maricopa County Schools Superintendent Sandra Dowling is responsible for replacing board members who quit and encouraging candidates to run. It's getting tougher and tougher and Dowling is convinced the state or districts will have to offer some sort of pay to entice qualified people to sit on local school boards. To make matters worse, state law requires districts with several schools ranked "failing" two years in a row to print that information on the election ballot. "Nobody understands how the pendulum has shifted toward state and federal control," Dowling said. "When you say 'accountability' that means turning in just the opposite direction of 'local control'."


Home Schoolers Are Challenging the Education Monopoly

The fact that so many parents feel obliged to homeschool is in fact a crashing indictment of the government system. When something is so bad that people won't even have it for free, what does that tell you?

It is a fundamental tenet of capitalism that free market competition is good for the people and the country. That's why Congress wisely enacted anti-trust legislation a century or so ago - to prevent big, powerful monopolies from eliminating their competition by stifling the little guy.

But today Americans are threatened by a government-sponsored and taxpayer-funded monopoly, one that is potentially more powerful and dangerous than the old Standard Oil and Carnegie Steel operations. Like a giant octopus with long, deadly tentacles, the socialistic "Official Public Education Trust" has established a virtual stranglehold on the impressionable minds of our nation's youth.

The Public Education Establishment in America is controlled by the Federal government through the unconstitutional Department of Education and is supported by the Left-leaning teachers' union, the National Education Association. These power-hungry academic oligarchs desperately want their 3-Rs racket to become the only game in town. Compulsory attendance requirements and anti-truancy regulations allow the long enforcement arm of the law to stretch into homes and classrooms all over America.

The problem for these frustrated educrats, though, is the fact their failed system doesn't work as well as the competition. The private sector has always been able to out-produce the government system. Rich folks with enough money could always buy their children a top-notch education in the pricier private schools, and that's still true today.

But the real threat to the public school monopoly comes from the rapidly growing Home School movement in America. Why? Because the numbers prove that average Moms and Dads who take the time to teach their children themselves are able to get much better results for a fraction of the cost. The statistics compiled by both the Department of Education's own Educational Resource Information Center (ERIC) and private researchers bear witness to this truth.

On nationally normed standardized achievement tests, the average score for all public school students is 50 in all areas. For all home schooled students taking the same tests, the average score for the complete battery of tests was 87, a whopping difference of 37 percentile points. For example: Total Reading, 87; Total Math, 82; Social Studies, 85. In every category, the home-schooled kids out-performed their public school peers.

According to Bryan D. Ray, Ph.D., president of the National Home Education Research Institute, the number of home-schoolers has been growing for the past two decades at a rate of between 7 and 15 percent per year, making this the fastest growing form of education. Close to two million American children in grades K-12 were being educated at home in the 2002-2003 school year, with similar overall success.

The education monopoly can't dispute these figures, let alone duplicate them, although they spend approximately ten times as much per student only to get dismal results. So they try to discredit home schooling in other ways. One way is to set up a straw man called (aptly enough) "Socialization," and then knock it down.

"The isolation implicit in home teaching is anathema to socialization and citizenship. It is a rejection of community and makes the home-schooler the captive of the orthodoxies of the parents," charges Dr. Dennis Evans, who directs the doctoral programs in education leadership at the University of California, Irvine.

"Schools, particularly public schools, are the one place where 'all of the children of all of the people come together,'" explained Dr. Evans in his 2003 "USA Today" op-ed piece entitled "Home is no place for school." Kids taught by parents and inculcated with their values might miss out on "an openness to diversity and new ideas," he warned.

Yes, and they might also miss out on dangerous drugs, gang violence, sacrilegious and degrading music, peer pressure to try sex before marriage, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, to mention just a few of the more prominent aspects of "socialization" being democratically spread through the public school system daily.

Some parents might actually prefer that their children would continue to address them respectfully as "sir" and "ma'am" rather than "dude." Or that they might spend their free time doing something more constructive than swapping pills at Pharming parties.

Frankly, the whole socialization argument is bogus, too. Fully 98 percent of home-schooled kids are involved in two or more extracurricular activities with other kids outside the home. These just happen to be of a more wholesome type, like field trips (84 percent), Sunday School classes (77 percent), group sports (48 percent), music classes (47 percent), and volunteer work (33 percent). (To read some of the many inspiring home school success stories, visit or, for academic statistics, see

Some states tightly regulate home schools to make sure that they toe the curricular line. Others do little or nothing to monitor home-schoolers. Either way, the academic results are statistically the same. Home-schooled kids excel across the board, whether they are scrutinized or ignored by the State.

In my own state of North Carolina, an abortive effort to bring home-schoolers under the control of the Department of Public Education was derailed by the protests of outraged parents last Spring. I was glad to see that happen because I know that parents - and not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., or Raleigh, NC - should make the final decisions about their children's education. Elected officials should actively fight for the rights of home school parents and their children to live free from intrusive government regulations.

If liberals truly believe in tolerance then give home-schooling families a tax credit. Our children are our greatest natural resource. If parents are willing to invest the time and effort to train their children to be critical thinkers, law-abiding citizens and productive adults, then I think that we as a nation need to invest in them, too.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


No comments: