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Our Public Schools Are a National Disaster

Posted on Friday, October 20, 2023
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by Outside Contributor
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49 Comments
Public school bus detail, black text on yellow background

Perhaps what’s most distressing about the latest collapse in high school test scores is that no one seems to be very distressed. 

You’ve probably heard the news that ACT scores have fallen for the sixth straight year. Our high school kids are less equipped for a job or college than at any time in three decades. 

Why isn’t anyone in Washington or anyone in our $800 billion education bureaucracy sounding the alarm and declaring this a national emergency? It certainly puts our national security, our technological superiority and our economic prosperity in grave danger. 

Instead of outrage, it is almost as if Americans have become anesthetized to bad news about our kids. 

One theory is that Americans feel about their local schools as they do toward Congress: They love their own representative but think the rest of the members are corrupt and incompetent. 

Yes, there are some excellent public schools, and yes, there are thousands of great teachers. But I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, which is one of the wealthiest counties in the country, and we had to pull our kids out of the public schools because they were so bad – and because they shut down during COVID. I shudder to think what’s going on in the Baltimore schools down the road. 

Exactly 40 years ago, the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued its findings on the state of the schools in its 1983 report entitled “A Nation at Risk.” Here was the grim conclusion: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

The nation never paid attention. If you think I’m blowing one bad report out of proportions, the National Assessment of Educational Progress report that came out earlier this year found similarly dismal student performance in the public schools. Reading and math proficiency collapsed over the past four years in part because of the teachers unions’ insistence that public school stay closed during COVID – a national act of child abuse. 

The Left obsesses about income inequality and the gap between rich and poor. Yet, they are so captive to the teachers unions that they do nothing about what is arguably the most regressive policy in America: our failing public school system. The decline in test scores is only half the story. The other part of the story is that the biggest declines in learning and achievement are among the poorer families.

I’m the furthest thing from an education expert, but I have had five kids. It’s pretty clear that three essential components to an enriching education are discipline in the classroom, high expectations and a classical curriculum. This isn’t that complicated. It’s not like solving a Rubik’s Cube. 

Today, most public schools fail all three of these standards. 

California recently announced it is going to make climate change a standard part of the school curriculum. Really? They are going to scare the bejesus out of kids with a propaganda campaign telling them the world is coming to an end. Why don’t they just try phonics so kids can read? 

The school blob’s pitiful response to this abject failure to teach is to call for more money. We’ve tried that for 40 years. Per student spending in the public schools after adjusting for inflation is up 50% in 30 years, which almost entirely inversely correlates with the continual test score slide. 

The one glimmer of hope is the burgeoning school choice movement in America, which allows the dollars to follow the students and parents to choose the best schools for their kids – public, private, Christian, Jewish, or whatever works. Ten states this year have expanded school choice. 

Meanwhile, the teachers unions argue with a straight face that school vouchers would hurt the public schools. Have they seen the test scores? How could they possibly perform worse?

Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economist with FreedomWorks. His latest book is “Govilla: How the Relentless Growth of Government Is Devouring Our Economy.”

Reprinted with Permission from CFIF.org – By Stephen Moore

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Jackie
Jackie
6 months ago

I’m tired of paying property taxes as a grandma and seeing the upper administration getting more people in the administration office with high dollar salaries!! I’m tired of seeing my property taxes going up every year and yet our students aren’t getting any smarter, quite the opposite!! I’m tired of seeing my child, who is a teacher, and his wife, who is also a teacher, buying things for their classroom out of their own pocket!!! I’m tired of seeing all of this transgender stuff being perpetrated by school personnel and leaving parents out of the loop!! I’m tired of the liberalism in schools seeming more like indoctrination than education and that’s in all classes from pre-K to college level classes!! We need to get back to basics and teach critical thinking skills not CRT!! We need to teach ‘real’ history, not someone’s idealized notion of history!!

FedUp
FedUp
6 months ago

Time to defund and dismantle the Department of Education. They’ve only accomplished one thing; drive student scores lower and lower ever year.

paul
paul
6 months ago

I pay massive amounts for school taxes. as a grandpa I object to school addendas and wonder when I gave up my voice.

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
6 months ago

Well Done with this important article on this important subject Mr.Moore . You mentioned Standards in education — very good that you did — anything that involves responsibility requires standards. The aviation industry for example, it wouldn’ t do very well to not have standards there , it is far better to know that the design ,manufacture ,materials , procedures for navigation are understood to be reliable and provide for safety and engineering integrity. Same for ship building and operation , for roads, for food, and same goes for Medicine — so education systems need improvements with establishing better standards . That fact should be appreciated by those involved in the education field and once it is then improvement can commence — with the noble goal of having high quality education nationwide ,at all levels . Very good that provided this encouraging and truthful report card on education Stephan — it is appreciated.

Phillip Nagle
Phillip Nagle
6 months ago

Our public school systems are run for the benefit of the teachers, bureaucrats and politicians with little regard for how well the children are taught. We need a 100% voucher system, a system where teachers and schools prosper when they do a good job and fail when they do a bad job.

Deb Rockwell
Deb Rockwell
6 months ago

School choice )as in the dollars follow the student) is the way to go. It will help privatize eduction which will make a huge difference over time. I am taking advantage of it here in FL. It took effect 7/1/23 here.

Morbious
Morbious
6 months ago

I was lucky enough to attend catholic schools. There was this thing called discipline. Disruptive kids were punished. If they persisted they were expelled. We still tried to get away with as much as possible but were scared of the authorities. The clear solution to the chaos in govt schools: incorrigible kids must be removed and put on a different track; either prison or drywall (or landscaping, roofing etc). In the current insanity, such kids are allowed, even encouraged, to ruin the chances of the others. But dont hold your breath. The nea fights any and all suggestions other than higher taxes and fatter paychecks and more obscene pensions.

J. FARLEY
J. FARLEY
6 months ago

It’s doing exactly what it has designed to do. —– Creating good little Comrades, who will either work for the state or control those who really work their Asse’s off for the state.
God bless and save America!

GM
GM
6 months ago

Parents must go to the school boards and PROTEST>>Have legal information to go against what the Teachers Union is doing.

Mike
Mike
6 months ago

Almost all politicians are parasites and burdens on society. Government’s sole purpose should be to protect its citizens from initiatory force, fraud, and coercion. Our government run school system feeds perfectly into a system designed to keep the parasitical elite ruling class in power.

anna hubert
anna hubert
6 months ago

This problem took decades to accumulate It would take a time to fix it Also there is a problem of electronics that took over kids lives and drugs that are affecting developing brain Meds also are prescribed too freely Add to it lack of discipline, parental involvement teachers inability to demand discipline or performance ,students being put in the class regardless of ability and there is the final product

DBM
DBM
6 months ago

You mention three essential components to an enriching education. There is a fourth and that is a supportive home environment> I’ll get crucified for making this statement, but that is a primary reason wealthy families have better performing kids than poor families.

Theresa Coughlin
Theresa Coughlin
6 months ago

In addition to defunding the Department of Education and expanding school choice to all 50 states, we also need to tell the teacher’s union bosses to take a hike and stop them from cramming their agendas down our throats. We also need to audit the schools in order to find out what they did with the money we’ve given them BEFORE we even think about giving them any more.

history
history
6 months ago

Christopher Columbus planting an American flag in New York City in 1492 was truly the dawn of freedom. It symbolized freedom like nothing else could.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
6 months ago

I believe in school choice and paying the PARENT not the school. School boards get away with their BS because parents are not “paying customers”.

mary
mary
6 months ago

i grew up in Montgomery County in Maryland. in my elementary public school i was in a math class doing Algebra. i loved It! are kids doing that now? sad to hear that county has fallen so far.

Richard
Richard
6 months ago

Looks school choice is still a needed reform.

Lauramerrone
Lauramerrone
5 months ago

I was a teacher and tried to use discipline in my classroom. I expected the kids to use proper language and raise their hands if they had a question. Also, I tried to teach critical thinking skills and get the kids to read better. All I got was resistance from the administration and my contract was not renewed. And because of that one year, I never was able to return to the classroom. It’s no wonder our schools are decaying. How can kids learn anything without proper discipline?

Robin W Boyd
Robin W Boyd
5 months ago

In order to get U.S. schools to be less of a detriment to society and more of a benefit, we must first get organized labor out of the school system along with all other Progressive thinking persons and government agencies. Schools in the U.S. have become much more Socialist indoctrination centers than they are academically focused. Schools should not be involved in any social or political issues other than teaching the U.S. Constitution and the benefits of the U.S. as a democratically controlled Republic.

history
history
6 months ago

Students should be taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492 and to celebrate Columbus Day.

Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
6 months ago

More important to teach Idology than 3 r’s. DFumb down the kids so New World Order can take over. SHAME. Kyle L.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
6 months ago

Close the schools down
Home School

Mike L
Mike L
5 months ago

the NEA does not want a voucher system, because it takes money and students away from their pay base. They get tax dollars based on number of students in the local school system. Doesn’t matter if NEA “teaches” the students, it just a numbers game for dollars. Since the NEA donates to democrats, don’t see much change in blue states.
As for knowledge that the younger generation is getting, I agree it is declining. I worked as a Mechanical Engineer for 44 years in Aerospace and Automotive industries. I participated in STEM programs encouraging youngers to get into engineering, science, technology, etc. and noticed the number of children dropping each year. Most of the public schools in my area do not teach the math and science needed to get into an Engineering college. The number of engineers graduating in the US has be declining for years. Many engineers now working in the US are from foreign colleges; like India, China, Egypt, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, Europe, etc.

Glen
Glen
5 months ago

Solution # 1: Eliminate the Federal Education Department. — Solution # 2: BAN the NEA — Solution # 3: State Teacher Unions Only — Solution # 4: The best solution for parents who really are interested in their children learning Reading Writing & Math and not the latest Federal agenda; HOME SCHOOL!

Ray Green
Ray Green
5 months ago

As a Teacher during the 70, 80 and 90’s, it was obvious we were dumbing down the curricula. Follow the teach to the test guidelines or be sent to the rubber room for punishment. Don’t discipline minorities because they are victims. Pass or Fail where no one fails. Coddle the students DON’T discipline them. Our system has gone so far down hill I’m not sure how long, or if, we’ll try to to turn it around.
AMERICA IS LOSING ITS GREATNESS. CAN IT BE STOPPED? YES. WILL WE TAKE THE HIGH ROAD AND GUT IT OUT TO TURN IT AROUND? I SURE AS HELL HOPE AND PRAY THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM HAVE THE COURAGE TO STAND UP AND SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
AS A MARINE VETERAN, I’M NOT ASHAMED OF MY COUNTRY. I’M ASHAMED OF THOSE WHO ARE SATISFIED WITH MEDIOCRITY AND WHO WON’T STAND UP BECAUSE THEIR AFRAID THEIR FRIENDS WON’T LIKE THEM. WAKE UP UP! THEY AREN’T YOUR FRIENDS!
THINK OF THIS: IF NOT ME, WHO!

Smike
Smike
5 months ago

This is basically why we’re having the Student Loan disaster. Kids graduated from high school because everyone graduates from high school whether you actually attend or pass any standard or not. They went to college and failed – colleges do have standards and you pay up front. There is no refund for failing. Colleges don’t care if you fail, they have a reputation to maintain. So many beat the system by changing their major to something that here are no standards for and a very limited job market. They get a degree that is useless. So, if you want your kid to have a future, you and they need to take high school seriously and they need to major in college in something there’s a job market for. The problem is you, you need to take care of your kids and stop blaming someone else for not taking care of them for you.

Smike
Smike
5 months ago

Most private schools don’t have government paid bussing. Most private schools don’t get any tax money for anything. Most private schools have to meet academic standards or the government will shut them down. Most private schools have a waiting list. 20 years ago my wife and I (both Registered Nurses) decided to send our 4 children to private schools. No regrets, we did our part as parents.

Tom Sadlier
Tom Sadlier
5 months ago

No kid left behind!

Mister
Mister
5 months ago

armpit in education I would agree with very much but government, parents

MaryanneD
MaryanneD
5 months ago

It’s a disgrace that we have a First Lady, Dr Jill who has a doctorate in education and doesn’t speak up for our children. She seems to care more about the teachers union than our children.

C Murphy
C Murphy
5 months ago

We should be ashamed at how our children are being treated! They for years have just been pushed through the system without the tools they need to prosper. The cost of private schools for most is out of reach. Lord help us help our kids!

barb
barb
5 months ago

teach basics, stop DEI, restorative justice, sex trans and drag queen story hours

history
history
6 months ago

At least our country is free because of Christopher Columbus.

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