A Plea to Betsy DeVos and President-elect Trump
Foreword – I don’t really like the method I am proposing in the following but I have over 30 years’ experience in re-organizing businesses and can state with absolute certainty that this country’s K-12 public school districts simply do not have the ability to transform in any meaningful manner. It just isn’t possible.
If we want to finally fix the failing K-12 public education system and help save every child whose heart beats today, we must take action. Yes, God bless the school choice movement but their impact over the past 25 years as a percent of all K-12 students has been minuscule. The solution is in changing the system and brute force and blackmail seems to be the only possible method to do so.
A Plea to President Trump
And so the Trump revolution begins. If President Trump truly wants to make America great again he must address the sad state of K-12 public education. It is both the cause and the solution to many of this country’s problems. Positive national transformation is simply not possible without fixing K-12.
As an experienced manager you know one should always focus on why rather than who when addressing this or that failure. Don’t blame the teachers. This country is filled with hardworking, dedicated, and loving teachers, administrators, para-pros and volunteers. They are not the problem.
Don’t blame the unions. Yes, unions are always resistant to change but not being part of the solution does not mean they are therefore the source of the problem. Rather the problem is K-12’s basic top-down system design.
On a per-pupil basis we spend more money on K-12 education than any other country on the planet. Yet the fact remains most 8th graders are not proficient in either math or reading. Only about 25% of incoming college freshmen are prepared for college, just 4% for blacks. And few wake up the day before high school graduation and decide to attend college. Most of these kids have been on a college-track for years and these are the results?! What of those who weren’t on a college-track?
And the poorer one is, the worse it is. The schools poor kids are forced to attend are a national and moral disgrace. Their lives are being destroyed before they even have a chance. And sadly far too many of these kids have black and brown skin. If you don’t want opportunity to continue to be rationed by parent’s zip code, then the Trump administration must act quickly and boldly.
You must act quickly because you are only 7 years old once. Most studies show if a child is not performing at grade level by 5th grade the odds are they never will. Far too many school improvement plans act as though the goal is the school, not the students. Plans taking 10-plus years to even begin to implement are a joke to every child whose heart beats today. These supposed “improvements” will not impact a single one since they will have already moved far down that vast assembly line of K-12 education.
You must act boldly because the present clearly isn’t working. President Trump, in your business experiences you have witnessed the wonders of the marketplace. How free people freely interacting with other free people can quickly and profoundly transform any area they touch. Education is no different.
On average this country annually spends around $11,000 per pupil on K-12 public education. In many inner-cities it is often more than double this. Please push for introduction of a bill which forces any state that accepts federal education dollars to change the method(s) used to fund K-12. Rather than funding the education establishment, force the states to fund children instead. The bill will require states accepting federal education dollars to give sole control to the parents to determine how and where these education dollars are spent, of course in some sort of state-regulated environment. As icing on top, this won’t cost an extra dime.
This one simple change, which could be implemented right now, will unleash the wisdom of millions as the power of free people freely interacting with other free people transforms public education. Every student will gain as will every teacher.
There are a couple models for this. At the federal level a similar tactic was used in the 1984 highway bill which forced a national 21 year old drinking age; so what we are proposing is not new or unique and has been upheld by the Supreme Court.
At the state-level we have a model in the effective state-based regulation of beverage alcohol. This country has one of the best regulated alcohol markets in the world while also being the most dynamic and innovative. The same can be done with K-12 public education. Let each state become a laboratory in democracy and watch the transformation happen before our eyes. Leave it to the states to decide how to do it; the law will simply demand they must if they want to continue to receive federal education dollars.
The only way to fix a failing system is to change the system. It is within your power to unleash the wisdom of millions by ending the failing, top-down, “we know best” system design of K-12. Replace it with freedom. Replace it with true opportunity. Perhaps go for the whole enchilada and get rid of the entire Department of Education in the process. It is a remnant of this failing system.
Will this be disruptive? Of course. But will it literally save this country and millions of young lives? Without a doubt. You have had the courage to do what the vast majority thought impossible; please do not avert your eyes to this on-going American tragedy.
And as a secondary benefit, can you imagine your inroads into all communities but especially the black and brown communities if you come with a $11,000 - $20,000 check to be used by parents to educate their children? You will transform the political realities of the entire country while saving millions of young lives. You will go down as one of the most transformational Presidents in the country’s history.
I beg you to bring freedom to K-12 public education. The eyes of 75 million young Americans are upon you. Please don’t let them down.
John Conlin is the founder and President of End the Education Plantation, www.EndtheEducationPlantation.org. He started it because he’s seen first-hand the harm being caused by our nation’s schools and believes it’s time to do something about that.