Opinion: Giving families resources and choices would stop the endless controversy and bring peace to public education

Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center shares her thoughts that the current education system is based on coercion, not choice, and does not account for the varying needs of children.
File photo.

Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center shares her thoughts that the current education system is based on coercion, not choice, and does not account for the varying needs of children.

Liv Finne
Washington Policy Center

As we all know, public schools in Washington state tend to foster controversy.  Instead of sticking to delivering a high-quality public education to every child, school officials and the powerful teachers union promote one politicized issue after another.  The results are high drop- out rates, falling academic standards and more families leaving the system.  November 2021 test scores show 70 percent of Washington’s students failed in math and 52 percent failed in English, and in the last two years over 40,000 families have pulled their children out of public schools.

Liv Finne
Liv Finne

Specifically, here are examples of what parents are concerned about:

●  Long-term learning delays created by 13 months of closed schools, at a time when most private and charter schools were open and operating;

●  Low-quality online courses forced on students at home;

●  Mandated instruction in Critical Race Training (CRT) and other racialist ideas that pull kids away from the study of core subjects;

●  Instructing children to separate themselves into “oppressors” and “victims” based on their outward appearance;

●  Months-long mask mandates that hinder the cognitive and social development of children;

●  Falling test scores at a time when schools are receiving $17,000 per student, and average teacher pay and benefits of over $100,000 for a nine-month school year.

Education scholar Andrew Coulson found that forcing diverse students into a one-size-fits-all government education program, one that dates from the 19th century, virtually guarantees endless controversy.   The current education system is based on coercion, not choice, and does not account for the varying needs of children.   

As a result, school officials create one controversy after another.  The solution is to give parents education options. Giving parents choices would meet the learning needs of students, while reducing social conflict. 

Four innovative bills introduced this session, HB 1633, SB 5205, HB 1215 and HB 1555, would give families $6,000 to $10,000 a year in public funds to pay for education, including tuition at a private school.  These bills would have put families in charge of the education destinies of their own children.

These bills were blocked in committee and apparently will not move forward this session, but their practicality in reducing conflict remains valid.  Providing resources and respecting the choices of parents is the best way to bring peace to public schools and, most importantly, provide the children in our state access to a great education.

Liv Finne is the director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center.

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