Letter to the Editor: Who Should Control Education

Education is not in the U.S. Constitution because the founders wanted most aspects of life to be managed by those who were closest to them, beginning with local government. Local and state government had the responsibility to ensure that differences were valued and each child had opportunities based on skill and ability.

The shift to national control and tax-supported privatization began in the 1960s, when a few people, upset about integration, methodically began passing laws to nationalize education using carrot-and-stick rewards and promises to help the poor and disadvantaged. 

Title I programs initiated during Johnson’s War on Poverty seemed to succeed. During the ’70s and ’80s, many educators taught to the needs of children and shared a variety of teaching strategies. 

Each subsequent Title/Chapter 1 revision strengthened national control. By the 1990s, educators knew that basing “excellence” in schools on test-score comparisons was a recipe for failure that would dumb down and deskill kids because there are several other kinds of giftedness. 

Yet in 2002, President George Bush and Congress passed No Child Left Behind, which required every child to take standardized tests that compared students, teachers and states and rewarded test excellence. In 2010, national core standards were developed. Today too many educators and parents assume that excellence in schools is a test score, and too many schools have cut teachers’ planning time.

Current scores prove our founders right: Nationalizing education does not work. Reading ability and test scores are declining. Kids are frustrated and act out. The rich are insanely richer; the poor are poorer; the middle class is disappearing; and an ignorant electorate is emerging.

Finally, when a politician’s education platform focuses on teacher pay, attention is inadvertently shifted from billionaires failing to pay their fair share of taxes.

U.S. Secretary of Education DeVos and Vice President Pence told people in Milwaukee that Wisconsin is the test state for privatization. They criticized public schools (most following national law) to encourage tax support for charter and voucher schools.

Carole Vande Walle

Fish Creek, Wisconsin