Local Control Means Choice
School Choice Weekly, Issue #19
It is highly unusual for government school employees to endorse school choice. But one public school superintendent in Fulton, Georgia gets it: “There’s nothing more [in line with] local control ... than choosing where your kids go to school,” Robert Avossa told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Local control is a weasel phrase that in education often means union control. Liberal local control proponents often insist the ability to elect a school board means government schools reflect the will of the families they govern. In truth, school boards are typically elected in low-turnout elections during off-season times such as spring. This means special interests such as teachers unions and the education establishment determine the electoral outcome at the expense of kids and individual choice, as the Hoover Institution’s Terry Moe and others have exhaustively demonstrated.
Sullying the name and concept of local control, however, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, just as the prevalence of divorce doesn’t mean marriage is worthless and fake Rolexes don’t mean the real thing is low-quality. People who want others to accept bad ideas must cloak them, so they use a worthy name without its substance.
So local control, when it means freeing families to meet their needs as they determine them and not a cover for slightly smaller central planning and coercion, is a central feature of any good education system, just as Avossa says. It’s similar to the concept of subsidiarity, in which responsibility for any one person or concern belongs to the individual or organization as close to that person or concern as possible. For most children, the people appropriately responsible for their care and upbringing are their parents. That’s why local control in education should mean parent control, and thus school choice.
Avossa plans to listen some more to the parents who trust their children to his care and ultimately start a portfolio of schools that respond to their desires: Montessori, unified K-8 without a separate middle school, and so forth. That’s certainly a good start and, again, far closer to family freedom than most public school systems, which are often not acutely responsive to family concerns.
True local control, by the way, is why charter schools do not destroy representative government, because they cannot compel students to attend. Every family that chooses a charter school implicitly votes for its existence by bringing their government education funds to it. If they aren’t pleased, they can take their kids and their money to another school. If too few people vote for the school that way, it dissolves, with far less harm than Detroit is facing. The more people’s lives and preferences are subject to central planning, the worse the outcome when that planning ultimately fails.
SOURCE: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
IN THIS ISSUE:
- TESTING: Analysts square off on whether states should let parents choose what tests they’ll use to measure their kids’ schools, rather than having the state dictate curriculum and education philosophy by mandating certain tests.
- SOUTH CAROLINA: A local school district considers having a successful private school run a failing public school.
- NEW JERSEY: So many students take advantage of an inter-district choice program that the state may move to limit it. To get districts to let students transfer in, the state offered to pay their tuition, and now that’s getting expensive.
- OKLAHOMA: Several decades of experience with both show lawmakers should expand school choice and ditch government preschool. Oklahoma’s preschool program is essentially a waste of money, while school choice saves money and benefits kids.
- PEARL HARBOR DAY: A leading Common Core textbook treats World War II as if Americans were the cruel aggressors and war can never be just.
- INDIANA: Legislative leaders plan to push a bill to drop Common Core for Indiana standards.
- WRITING: Common Core’s writing samples exhibit a bias towards citing evidence for the sake of evidence, even if it promotes untruths and nonsense.
- WISCONSIN: After a series of hearings produced little action from lawmakers, conservative groups urge Gov. Scott Walker to reject Common Core.
- GLOBAL: New international test results came out Tuesday, showing the U.S. sliding further behind other developed countries in math, science, and reading. The Obama administration decided to release the results early to advocacy groups that favor its agenda, rather than the traditional route of turning them over to journalists and researchers.
- WAIVERS: Fifteen states ask the federal government for testing waivers to roll out Common Core and 12 ask for waivers from tying the test results to teacher evaluations for a year.
- GERMANY: The U.S. Supreme Court orders the Obama administration to respond to a German homeschooling family’s plea for asylum. Germany outlaws homeschooling, and the Romeike children will likely be seized if the family returns. Even so, they appear to be the only people the administration wants to deport.
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