Schools need competition

Education is the great equalizer, and poverty to prosperity is an American hallmark. It begins and ends with the success or failure of education. When education fails, poverty flourishes. Success means teaching young people independence of thought, setting high goals, striving for excellence, and wrapping oneself in the American patriotic and entrepreneurial spirit.

State/local boards and administrations eagerly wait in the federal welfare line for political handouts. They’ve learned how to increase the number of “qualifying” children on the free breakfast and lunch programs (this determines the federal money we receive), then use those numbers as an excuse for lower test scores and subsequently, to hire more staff.

The West Virginia Department of Education and its propaganda arm, the West Virginia Board of Education are microcosms of its bloated, inflexible, and slow-moving big daddy, the U.S. Department of Education.

American schools get children at a younger and younger age, spend more money on education than any country in the world, have newer schools, the latest technology, and boundless new government programs. Nevertheless, the system fails at properly educating America’s youth.

Understanding this, one must ask if the progressive indoctrination and failure to teach critical thinking and basics in education, is deliberate and calculated to funnel another generation into government dependency.

An independent, properly educated electorate with good life skills and high-quality employment has little use for an all-powerful, over taxing, regulating government. Tyranny dictates that people remain ignorant and poor.

Federal and state regulations in classrooms take teachers’ time and attention away from their prime duty; teaching young people. A continual uproar of disruptions and paperwork overwhelm teachers and administrators. In exchange, Wood County receives federal money representing 10.5 percent of our budget.

The private sector sees spectacular improvements in products and services at reduced costs with the passage of time, experience, and technology. Public education stands out as a colossal government failure over time. Failing test scores are nationwide.

A new Superintendent and two newly-elected Wood County Board members bring fresh ideas for organization and improving education for our young people. However, the state’s mandatory indoctrination for new board members essentially told them that local boards exist at the whim of the legislature (with no protection under the West Virginia Constitution). They only have power specifically given to them by the legislature and are mandated to implement state board policies. If they truly exist only for that purpose, then one would believe that board members have no right to question state board policies. This explains much of what is wrong with West Virginia education.

Two things the board and administration can do:

* Report the entire Wood County School budget to the public and media in an additional format than the legally required notice in the classifieds.

2014-15 year: $128.7 million total, with federal money of $13.5 million

* Present test scores and budgets in simple, easy to understand language and in a format conducive to publication in the press.

We’ve deteriorated to the point that the only practical solution for meaningful improvement is competition. By allowing parents to use their state and local tax money (voucher program) they can choose the schools their children attend. Since the likelihood of weaning school bureaucracies from Washington’s money is miniscule; choice, competition, and community action are the only ways to affect change.

Jim Mullen is a Parkersburg resident involved in education reform efforts on the national, state and local level.