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Karen Hiltz Opinion: Public Education’s Real Cost to Society

The cost of educating children typically focuses on dollars and cents with a common measure being the per-pupil cost.‭ ‬But what is included in this calculation‭? ‬There are many costs associated with education.‭ ‬Particularly when government funds support the institution.

We know a per pupil amount includes staff salaries and benefits,‭ ‬instructional materials,‭ ‬operational expenses,‭ ‬transportation,‭ ‬and more.‭ ‬But does it factor in capital costs‭? ‬What about federal and state mandates and their unintended consequences‭? ‬What are the impacts of the unexpected and unknown‭? ‬These variables merely continue to build a bureaucracy that has gotten too big,‭ ‬too onerous,‭ ‬and too controlling.

Do‭ ‬We‭ ‬Need‭ ‬Public‭ ‬Education‭?

This is a reasonable question to ponder.‭ ‬As someone who’s been involved in education for almost two decades,‭ ‬my position has shifted.‭ ‬I’m no longer convinced that the public system we currently have is providing the return on investment we need for a thriving republic.

My journey into education began with teaching at the college level.‭ ‬I’ve served on private and public school boards and on various non-profits.‭ ‬There have been many changes,‭ ‬but the one constant is the expectation of a quality education for‭ ‬all children.‭ ‬Change has also revealed that many disagree on how education should be administered.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬many do understand the education a child receives has a direct impact on our communities,‭ ‬states,‭ ‬and republic.‭

Earlier Times

Individuals and families traversed the Atlantic Ocean for a new life with new opportunities.‭ ‬They sought freedom from a tyrannical monarchy.‭ ‬They knew their rights were endowed by their Creator,‭ ‬not from the government.‭ ‬The risk to seek God-given rights and pursue religious freedom was vital to the success of our experiment.‭ ‬They also knew education was key.

Many claim our republic has always had a public education system.‭ ‬This reflects a lack of historical knowledge.‭ ‬During the time of our founding,‭ ‬public education was not dominate,‭ ‬publicly funded,‭ ‬nor widely accessible.

Public school began with a different purpose and teaching.‭ ‬For many reasons, it began mainly as an individual or private endeavor.‭ ‬Parents were responsible for their child’s upbringing.‭ ‬Otherwise,‭ ‬children were tutored or served in apprenticeships.‭ ‬Those who pursued higher education‭ ‬studied theology.‭ ‬Also,‭ ‬many believe education was for children of prominent families,‭ ‬but our founders recognized the value of having a virtuous and educated populous.

Current Times

I’ve often stated COVID was the best thing that happened to education‭ ‬because parents‭’ ‬eyes were opened.‭ ‬Children were forced to stay home,‭ ‬which allowed parents to see and hear what was being taught.‭ ‬Some school districts went so far as to tell parents they could not be in the room during instructional time.‭ ‬How ludicrous is that‭?

Unions exposed themselves for who they truly are.: agents merely seeking to retain power and control of the status quo.‭ ‬They required teachers to strike,‭ ‬administrators to lie,‭ ‬data to be distorted,‭ ‬and school districts to remain closed.‭ ‬If the party line wasn’t followed,‭ ‬retribution was administered.‭ ‬No wonder children are behind based on the scorecard.‭ ‬The sick part is unions claim to support teachers that only want what’s best for children.‭ ‬This is a lie‭!

What about choice‭?

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Experts argue what choices parents should or should not be afforded.‭ ‬If true educational freedom is the goal,‭ ‬then all parents must decide what’s best for their child.‭ ‬When public school is the only offering,‭ ‬mediocrity should be expected.‭ ‬When competition is eliminated,‭ ‬the mouse trap never seeks improvement.‭ ‬The status quo sets in.‭ ‬People become complacent.‭ ‬We get what we get.‭ ‬And costs continue to rise.

Our republic is in this space.‭ ‬We’ve become complacent.‭ ‬We accept the status quo.‭ ‬We don’t want to rock the boat.‭ ‬We pay whatever it costs because it’s someone else’s money‭ – ‬right‭? ‬This is the epitome of socialism.‭ ‬So,‭ ‬if we truly want excellence,‭ ‬we must have competition.‭ ‬We must raise our standards,‭ ‬not lower them.‭ ‬We must demand quality.

The reality is educational choice is a myth.‭ ‬There are only three:‭ ‬public,‭ ‬private,‭ ‬and homeschooling.‭ ‬When states offer vouchers,‭ ‬scholarships,‭ ‬education savings accounts,‭ ‬etc.,‭ ‬these are mainly programs within the public education system.‭ ‬When public dollars are doled out,‭ ‬it falls within the realm of‭ ‬the public.

True education freedom isn’t a redistribution of tax dollars.‭ ‬It’s parents keeping their earned income to pay for educating their children.‭ ‬It means lowering or eliminating taxes.‭ ‬It means letting non-profits and churches provide the needed support.‭ ‬It means families doing what’s best for them.

Many are too dependent on the government.‭ ‬The government is expected to provide versus providing for ourselves.‭ ‬We’ve strayed from the principles of our constitutional republic.‭ ‬Our founding fathers envisioned limited government,‭ ‬not massive bureaucracies.‭ ‬We have become indentured servants.‭ ‬Freedom is an illusion‭!

The‭ ‬Real Cost

So,‭ ‬what is the real cost‭? ‬Churning out children that are not proficient in the basics of reading,‭ ‬writing,‭ ‬and arithmetic‭? ‬Children who aren’t taught the virtues of family,‭ ‬religion,‭ ‬and community‭?

Education is big business.‭ ‬And‭ ‬big bureaucracies aren’t able to see the forest for the trees.‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬our society does rely on an educated populace.‭ ‬But are our children learning what they need to be successful in life‭? ‬I would argue that a growing number are not.

Instead of an educated populous,‭ ‬as our founding fathers intended,‭ ‬we are realizing an ever-increasing uneducated and illiterate populous.‭ ‬Every year more are relying on the government to survive.‭ ‬Many don’t value a work ethic.‭ ‬Too many are unable to function in an imperfect and complicated society.‭ ‬And,‭ ‬quite frankly,‭ ‬many point the finger at others versus themselves for their situation in life.

The‭ ‬Real Question

While opposing parties continue to disagree about parental rights,‭ ‬books,‭ ‬safety,‭ ‬social issues,‭ ‬and more,‭ ‬the big picture is being overlooked.‭ ‬For those who truly seek quality education,‭ ‬one must ask:‭ ‬Do you want more or less government control over your child’s education and life‭?

Dr. Karen Hiltz, a speaker and author from Sebastian, is a Navy veteran, retired federal procurement professional and a former professor of business and public school board member. She has a BA and MBA in Management and an EdD in Leadership Studies.


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