The Value of an Education

The attached article is re-posted from Governor Mike Huckabee’s March 14, 2022 newsletter. Everything that Gov Huckabee writes is consistent with what I have learned during my over 30 years of involvement in the Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico educational systems. Just as the car I drive today is NOTHING like the car I learned to drive on, the public schools available to children today are NOTHING like the excellent public school that I sent my son during the years 1996-2009.

Working as an educational diagnostician and special education advocate in 2022, my recommendation to parents and grandparents seeking a quality classical education in which children learn language, develop literacy, and acquire critical higher order thinking skills is to avoid ALL public and MOST charter schools. Schools funded by our tax dollars are, at this point in time, broken. They ALL know that they MUST acquiesce to WOKE philosophy to obtain needed tax dollars to stay in business. Thanks to Gov Huckabee for:

#3 Homeschooling is on the rise (Adapted from the book ‘The Three C’s That Made America Great: Christianity, Capitalism and the Constitution‘ by Mike Huckabee and Steve Feazel.) The links are also found in Governor Huckabee’s newsletter.

During the pandemic, homeschooling doubled to nearly 11 percent. Many thought it would fall once schools reopened, but with the continuing abuse of children with unnecessary and cruel COVID measures – plus the fact that Internet classes allowed parents to see how their kids were being bombarded with divisive and racist Critical Race Theory, anti-Christian and anti-American messages, inappropriate sexual and gender indoctrination and other leftist propaganda – plus all the news stories about a public school board covering up for rapists and girls being forced to accept boys in their locker rooms, bathrooms and sports, in the name of “trans rights” — the trend has continued and is expected to keep growing.

A generation ago, parents who homeschooled their children were probably considered religious extremists or leftover hippies from the sixties. “Normal” people just didn’t do such things. Why, what kind of education would children get if they didn’t sit for at least six hours a day in a classroom listening to a teacher and watching the teacher write with chalk on a big green board at the front of the room? Turns out, a pretty good education could be had at home!

The first-ever perfect score on the SAT exam up through my tenure as Arkansas governor was achieved by a young lady who was home-schooled. (Her dad, in fact, worked for me in our Department of Human Services.) It was a source of great pride to her parents, but a source of great embarrassment for the educational establishment. Since then, it’s become routine to hear that the winner of some academic competition like the National Spelling Bee was home-schooled. As always in America, when there’s demand, someone will step up to supply it, and there are now many solid resources to provide educational materials and curricula for homeschooling parents, as well as extra-curricular and social activities.

Some of our close friends began homeschooling their children when doing so was still fairly rare. Many factors contributed to their decision, one of which was indeed wanting to be able to undergird their family’s faith rather than have the public schools undermine it. But there were other practical reasons, such as being able to have flexibility in the school calendar to accommodate their desires to travel, and to tailor their school lives around their family rather than have their family life built around the school schedule.

And the argument that kids who were homeschooled don’t get enough socialization is laughable for those of us who personally know homeschool families, because their children are typically very involved in numerous activities, from sports to music to theater to forensic debate. One of my writers has two nieces who are homeschooled, and their mom uses a curriculum based on top Jewish private schools.  He loves to brag about those girls, who are not only well-behaved, they excel at both academics and activities such as ice skating, dance, computers, theater and sewing. The older sister won a national dance competition in Manhattan and earned an endorsement deal from a dancewear company at 16. She also recently attended a special graduation party organized for homeschool students in her area. Yes, they even have proms now! Graduation ceremonies, too.

My first appointment to the Arkansas State Board of Education was a homeschooling parent. She was the first homeschooling parent in the United States to be appointed to a State Board of Education. The teachers’ union was apoplectic as was the rest of the board, all of whom had been appointed by my Democrat predecessors Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker. The very idea that one of those “homeschool moms” would be allowed to sit on the Stale Board of Education!

But the educational establishment never thought it inappropriate for them to regulate homeschooling, so why would they be so afraid that one out of seven members of the state board would be one of “those people” and they’d actually have a voice in their own regulation? She was incredibly effective, fair-minded, and within two years, was highly respected and regarded for her contribution to the board.

Meanwhile, per-pupil expenditures for public schools continue to soar even as standardized test results languish or decline. Some states and school districts spend more per year on K-12 students than other states spend for a year in a university.

According to Public School Review, the state that spends the most on public schooling is New York, at $38,270 per pupil per year! That’s more than double what they spent in 2014. Do you really think kids there are getting twice as good an education now? The state that spends the least is Utah: $8,830 per pupil. Do you think New York students are learning an extra $30,000 worth of facts that Utah students aren’t?

The District of Columbia spends over $26,000 per pupil, and while there are some excellent public schools in DC, that same source shows the average Washington public school has proficiency scores of 38% in reading and 32% in math and a rating of 1 out of 10. I would not be surprised if many students who had to stay home during the pandemic actually learned more than they would have in class.

As outrageous as those amounts sound, a 2010 Cato Institute study of DC plus the five largest US metro areas found that the costs of public schools are vastly underreported. They claim that public schools were actually spending an average of 93% more than the median private school in the same area. Again, were those students learning 93% more than private school students?

The sad fact is that in big (mostly blue) cities like Washington, DC, public school students get one of the worst educational experiences in America, along with crime, drugs and gang violence. A few years back, the Washington Post did a series of articles exposing the decline of public schools. My favorite story concerned a couple of DC school officials who worked for DC Afterschool for All, a program that provides extra instruction and afternoon supervision for thousands of impoverished children. Over a two-year period, they spent over $13,000 on expensive meals and drinks (including $82 bottles of wine at an upscale Italian restaurant) and entertainment (including a $225 tab at the Camelot Show Bar, one of DC’s fanciest strip clubs, expensed as a “school planning meeting”) and charged it all to the Shaw Junior High School activity fund. Those are some pretty dicey activities for a junior high.

It’s no wonder that when a limited number of African-American parents in DC were offered vouchers to send their kids to the schools of their choice, there was intense competition for them. They demonstrated that they wanted school choice because like all good parents, they care more about their kids getting the best chance at success than about sacrificing their futures to maintain a status quo education bureaucracy for the benefit of teachers’ unions.

Yet when Democrats oppose school choice, they often claim its supporters are racist, and they’re protecting public schools for the good of black children. They’re actually protecting failing schools for the benefit of their huge donor group, teachers’ unions, and condemning the kids to inferior educations. Why don’t they try asking black parents what they think about school choice?

Oh, wait: someone did! A survey in February by the National Coalition of School Options found that 75% of African-American parents want the right to choose which public school their kids attend, 82% favor tax credit scholarships, and 84% support education savings accounts.

Black parent Kayla Sveden wrote, “The very system on which U.S. public schools are built stands in the way of quality education for Black children, not because of barriers that keep us out of ‘good’ schools but ones that keep us in ‘bad’ schools. None of my children, nor the children of any low-income or Black families, ‘belong’ to the government school system.”

Yet when Barack Obama, the first black President, took office, he showed that his loyalties lay with the NEA, not black students, by moving to kill the DC school voucher program.

FYI: Obama himself studied at religious schools in Indonesia supplemented by homeschooling, then attended a private college prep school in Honolulu, and later sent his precious daughters to the prestigious DC private school, Sidwell Friends.

Say, here’s a suggestion to increase both the quality and student populations of DC’s public schools. Why don’t all the liberal politicians who champion public schools (or more precisely, public school teachers’ unions) and fight tooth and claw against vouchers or any other idea to give parents more control and kids a better education and hopes for a better life, take their own kids out of private schools like Sidwell Friends and put them into DC’s low-ranked public schools?

That would fill a lot of empty desks! And I’ll bet the quality of instruction and supplies and the safety of the facilities would finally improve virtually overnight.

#4 The Value of an Education: As a rock music fan, I enjoy Pink Floyd. But “We don’t need no education” is bad advice for life.

When our kids graduate school, they no longer just have to compete with each other. They now compete in a global marketplace. Not only have low-skilled jobs moved abroad where labor is cheap, but to attract new high-paying, tech-based jobs to America (or even to work online), our kids need an education as good or better than students get in China, India, Israel and other nations. Sadly, our schools are not giving them the tools they need to compete in the 21st century.

I have a friend who owns a printing business. He gives job applicants a pencil and ruler, and asks them to mark an eighth of an inch, a sixteenth of an inch and other simple measurements on a piece of paper. He tells me that no more than one out of ten even has a clue what he’s talking about. If America’s students can get a high school diploma without knowing basic fractions, then all we’re equipping them to achieve is a fraction of the American Dream.

Of course, the cry always goes up, “We need to spend more on education!” But we already spend over $550 billion a year, more than 4 percent of the gross domestic product. If money equaled results, then Washington, DC, should be crawling with junior Einsteins. DC public schools spend over $30,000 per student per year, or $10,000 more than the tuition for an in-state graduate degree from the University of Virginia. Yet DC’s reading, writing and math scores are well below the national average. Money alone doesn’t fix the problem.

Those who are obsessed with “income inequality” want to tear down those who earn more, but have no ideas for helping those who earn less. Well, here’s one: finish high school! Nearly a third of US students drop out. Over their lives, they’ll earn, on average, a quarter million dollars less than high school graduates. They’re also more likely to suffer ill health, get involved in drugs and crime, and die nine years younger. Staying in school benefits both them and society.

But if we want students to learn, then schools have to make them want to learn. To ignite their curiosity and turn them into lifelong seekers of knowledge. That takes both involved parents and competent teachers who are rewarded for good results. Kids need to be taught how to think, not just memorize standardized tests. They also need to be taught real facts and real history, not trendy racist, socialist and anti-American propaganda.

Dropping arts and music classes is the most short-sighted budget cut a school can make. Studies show that music class helps kids do better in other subjects, develop social skills, and stay in school longer. It might also improve the current dismal state of pop music. We must remember that schools exist for the students, not for the teachers’ unions or the education bureaucracy (so open the schools and stop letting the unions keep them closed.) And we need to keep most decisions about education at the state and local levels, with close parental involvement, so they’re made by people who know the students best.

If you think that doesn’t matter, look at all the home-schooled students winning academic contests. Home is as local as you can get, yet those students are more than ready to compete on the world stage. Don’t you want your kids to be?

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