During the campaign season, there are plenty of politicians promising to better education by increasing spending. What they don’t tell taxpayers is that the additional funding will come from their wallets—and it is unlikely to improve achievement.
Given this poor track record, candidates should be talking about the future of education in terms of three new “M’s,” and money is not one of them.
Minorities are not the minority in public schools anymore. This school year, minority students will outnumber white students for the first time. One-third of Hispanic students do not finish high school, and achievement gaps persist between Hispanic and black students and their white peers. Just 7 percent of black students scored at the proficient level in math in the latest national comparison, compared to 33 percent of white students.
Today we can document the devastating results of these gaps. Black men without a high school diploma are more likely to be in prison than to have a job. Approximately 75 percent of Hispanic immigrant adults only have a high school degree or less. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for individuals with a high school degree or less is double the rate for those with at least some college education.
Every child should have the chance at a great education, not just those who can afford a private school or extra tutoring. Lawmakers must focus on creating better options for all children, especially those that the traditional system has not served well.
Adults of the millennial generation are tomorrow’s parents—not to mention taxpayers for at least the next 40 years. The cost of education is going to take on a whole new meaning for this generation, especially because they will also be saddled with paying for the federal debt thanks for the increasing costs of Social Security and Medicare. To make matters worse, these recent college graduates carry an average college loan debt of $30,000.
Finding high-quality, lower-cost education opportunities for their children will be paramount. Flexible alternatives to assigned public schools, like education savings accounts, allow parents to choose from private or online schools, along with personal tutors and individual college classes creating a unique experience for their children without breaking the bank. Also, with this option, public funds are deposited into a dedicated bank account and families use a debit card to make education purchases. Lawmakers in Arizona and Florida have made the accounts available to parents in their states; each is worth approximately 90 percent of what the state typically spends from taxpayer resources on public schools.
A survey of Arizona parents using the accounts finds that 90 percent report being “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their experience so far, even among parents that were “very satisfied” with their previous public school.
Millennials have grown up with more choices about their day-to-day lives. They are used to adapting to new technologies, both at home and in the workplace, so they will expect innovative learning options for their children.
Put simply, there are more of them. Earlier this year, a Gallup poll found that 42 percent of Americans “identified as political independents” (the highest in 25 years). Outside of the bluest or reddest states, these independent voters will be the ones who swing elections. Pew Center data find that legal immigrants who traditionally vote Democrat will account for some 25 percent of the electorate in the next 20 to 30 years—more than double the same figure from the 2012 election. (It should be noted that in 2012, 71 percent of Hispanics voted for President Obama.)
While Democrats, calling themselves “pro-education voters,” have historically supported more education spending and other efforts like smaller class sizes, opinions are changing. A recent nationally representative survey found broad support for giving parents options for their children’s education over their assigned schools. Twice as many respondents said they support public charter schools over those who were opposed. Half of respondents favored school vouchers for all children, compared to 39 percent opposed.
And once respondents were told how much it costs to reduce class sizes, support for class-size reduction dropped from 46 percent to 35 percent. Nearly as many respondents favored buying new books and technology.
Money isn’t the “M” that candidates should be focused on. Education’s future lies in thoughtful consideration of these three other M’s.
Jonathan Butcher is education director at the Goldwater Institute and a senior fellow at the Beacon Center.
*This article originally appeared in Forbes.October 22nd, 2014 | Beacon Blog, Feature, Recent News
It is time for Tennessee to embrace the hope that school choice offers to families across our state. Parents with children from all walks of life, economic conditions, and ethnicities have banded together in support of greater educational opportunities. Not only do opportunity scholarships provide new pathways to higher achievement, but they also create more resources for children in our public education system. In fact, Tennessee’s opportunity scholarships are a tide that lifts all boats. In a sea of change with innovative methods of learning on the horizon, Tennessee parents deserve the freedom to explore the education frontier and choose the academic path that best suits their child.
Below are the contents of our education reform package, a comprehensive plan for school choice in Tennessee:
Special Report: Allowing Children to Dream Big - In our school choice options booklet, Beacon Senior Fellow Jonathan Butcher puts school choice success stories, available educational options, and application instructions in the hands of Tennessee families.
Policy Report: Saving Education - Our recent study shows that a voucher program would not just benefit students leaving the public school system, but also students staying in public schools.
Faces of Freedom: The Choice is Ours - Beacon believes every child deserves a good education, and the only way to achieve that goal is through school choice.
Opinion: Stupid Is as Stupid Does: We Need to Save Education - Beacon Director of Policy Lindsay Boyd explains that choice is the real solution to save education.
Infographic: School Choice – These graphics show the broad support for school choice among different demographic groups and how Tennessee stacks up to neighboring states when it comes to school choice options.
Click the graphic below for exclusive school choice content. You will need a password to access this section.
The Beacon Center of Tennessee has just released “Allowing Children to Dream Big,” a booklet that gives parents all the available options to provide their children with the education that they deserve. You can download the booklet here.
In addition to showing parents the educational options they currently have, the booklet also analyzes Tennessee’s school choice options relative to other states. Unfortunately, while families who have exercised choice have had tremendous success, options for Tennessee families are still limited.
While Tennessee policymakers debate additional school choice measures such as opportunity scholarships, other states across the country are providing robust choice programs for their students.
“We hope every Tennessee family eventually has chance to give their child the quality education he or she deserves,” said Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen. “In the meantime, this booklet represents the first step at laying out those options for families, so that they can choose the right educational environment for their child.”October 8th, 2014 | Feature, Policy