Secure Kids’ Right to Instruction

Secure Kids’ Right to Instruction
September 21, 2013

Carl Olson

Carl Olson is the founder of Textbook Trust, an adjunct professor of accounting, and member of the... (read full bio)

A 150-year-old profession with millions of practitioners should show considerable progress by now.  Unfortunately the K-12 government teaching profession is lagging substantially.  A key reason is not so obvious: Children and parents have no legal rights to instruction.  Ay, there is the rub!

Children/parents have no enforceable leverage to boost the quality of instruction.  The country is suffering as a result.  Student achievement levels have been in the doldrums for decades.  No "best practices" of teaching have been developed and spread around the country.  The public school industry gobbles up about half of tax spending at the state and local level with meager returns.

The current system does not incentivize teachers and the supervisors to do their best.  The receivers of instruction have no rights at all to it, whether superior or mediocre.  Children/parents receive instruction, but have no legal power over its content or effectiveness.  Children/parents currently lack any effective means for improvement.

What kind of rights in law, you ask?

Is there a constitutional right?  No.  No state constitution embodies any right to receive instruction for any child or parent.  State constitutions merely establish government schools with compulsory attendance, but no right to instruction, especially none controlled by children or parents.

Is there a contract between children/parents and the government?  No.  No such arrangement exists, and so no enforceable contractual rights are established.

Is there a third-party right for children and parents?  No.  A third-party situation means that two other parties have made an arrangement such that the third party (children/parents) receives some instruction as the beneficiaries.  But they have no right to the instruction on their own.  No third-party arrangement exists.

Is instruction a grant or gift from the government to children/parents?  No.  No such language exists in law.  Moreover, a gift is not under the control of the recipients.  It's a one-way arrangement with no rights accruing to the children or their parents.

No wonder children and parents find it so difficult to demand superior instruction. The relationship is one-way only, with recipients having to take such crumbs as they can find.

The only effective way to incentivize teachers and their supervisors is to enact real rights of instruction for children and parents which can easily be exercised individually and jointly.  Then and only then will we see a dramatic burgeoning of superior quality instruction.  Classrooms ought to be filled with high-quality instruction rather than the current mediocre instruction.

As noted above, about one-half of tax spending at the state and local levels goes into the government K-12 school industry.  With so many funds available, who knows how high achievement levels can swell!  It will make for an even stronger country, too.  
Calling all children, parents, legislators, and governors to enact real rights of instruction for children and parents.

Our country will benefit immensely from having a population that is much more literate, numerate, civic-minded, scientifically oriented, art appreciating, history-minded, and so on.  Let's get going.

Image by Eden, Janine, and Jim.

Carl Olson

Carl Olson is the founder of Textbook Trust, an adjunct professor of accounting, and member of the... (read full bio)