The federal Department of Education should be abolished, but unfortunately, it will probably never happen. There are too many people in both major political parties (most especially within the Democratic ranks) who are too beholding to the teachers' unions. The AFL-CIO and the Teamsters can only fantasize about having the clout of the National Education Association and its subsidiaries. As a result of this enormous influence, our national system of public schools has morphed into one of the most inefficient and ineffective conglomerates in existence today.
In Alabama, Dr. Paul Hubbert, the "el jefe grande" of the Alabama Education Association, is by far the most influential person in the state. He wields more behind-the-scenes influence than any elected official including the governor. This is common knowledge. Believe it or not, he even has more power than the head football coach at the University of Alabama. Now that is some serious stroke.
The teachers' unions gave us tenure. Only federal judges with lifetime appointments have better job security than teachers. Tenure breeds complacency, and it rewards mediocrity and in some instances downright incompetence. Teachers play a vital role in our society. They mold the minds of our nation's future. And like everyone else in any other job, they should be rewarded for a job well done, and they should be dismissed when their performance is substandard. No job should offer the protection afforded to public school teachers.
In February of 2008 in Washington County, Alabama, a 56 year old teacher, Charlene Schmitz, was arrested. She was convicted of using a cellphone and a computer to entice a 14 year old for sex. Currently, she is serving time in a federal prison. As hard as it is to believe, she is still receiving her full salary. And if she can drag out her job status process through the court system for another 2 1/2 years, which is not very difficult in our current system, she will receive her full pension. This is just one example of many of tenure abuse.
All school decisions should be made on the local level. A local school board member is much more accountable to the community and parents than is a federal bureaucrat. As we say in Alabama, that's just plain everyday horse sense.
And parents of all school-aged children should have the same opportunities to educate their children as do the affluent. School vouchers would give parents the freedom to send their children to the school of their choice. America thrives on competition and so would the schools. High achieving private institutions would force the public schools to bring their "A" game. Everyone, but bureaucrats and incompetent teachers, would thrive under the voucher system. It would be cost effective too. The census of 2003-2004 reported that an average of $8,287.00 per year per student was being spent in public schools. Seven states and the District of Columbia were spending over $10,000.00 per student. A separate report which was filed in February of this year indicates that the average yearly cost of private school tuition in this country is $3,116.00 per student. Private school students routinely outperform their public school counterparts. This is evidence that more money is not always the solution to a problem. It rarely is.
It is time to return the education of our future back into the hands of local officials and parents. This will also help to reduce the influence of leftist radicals who have infiltrated our current education system.