I am one of the few public school teachers who wishes to see the government out of our classrooms.
For years, I have bounced between left and libertarian circles. One issue that kept me from committing to the cause was public education. Now, the very same issue is one of the reasons I am back.
Some of the most important questions in education are never talked about in the public discourse: Are licensure requirements too restrictive? Should issues that affect the safety and health of our students be local decisions? Is public education doomed by national politics?
I can no longer support the traditional solution to the issues our schools are facing — more government and more money; we need to seriously reconsider the government’s role in education.
Licensure is unnecessary and complex
Kansas, like most states, is experiencing a teacher shortage, and the T2T program is one of its solutions.
While I am working as a full-time teacher, I have to pay to complete another graduate program, as well as pass three licensure exams: PPAT, PLT, and a content test.
The structure of these classes are very clearly designed to check administrative boxes, rather than ensure I am a qualified teacher.
I am well-educated, experienced, and qualified to be at the front of a classroom. However, the state of Kansas has decided that I can’t be a fully-licensed teacher until I have completed their prescribed program and spent thousands of dollars out of pocket.
Despite there being a teacher shortage, there is no discussion about removing or relaxing these restrictions, which constrict the supply of teachers.
If I have proven to my district and administrators that I am an effective teacher, why do I need to jump through overly extensive and oppressively expensive hoops?
Educational decisions must be made at the local level
My first day as a high school teacher, all the students wore masks, did their best to keep six feet apart, and moved through unidirectional hallways.
At the national level, there was discussion of federal shutdowns. Teachers unions and prominent Democrats wanted to keep teachers and students at home.
By having the kids come to school and follow safety procedures (sanitizing hands, etc.), the district was able to curb any increase in cases. We were also able to contact-trace in a much faster and efficient way than the county officials.
Keeping them at school improved our ability to respond to COVID-19 and to better ensure our children’s safety.
This is why centralization doesn’t work: you cannot have a one-size-fits-all solution to every problem. A small number of people deciding things for large numbers of people means critical information and opportunities for experimentation are simply missed.
Restricting what teachers can say is a violation of free speech
The classroom is now a battleground where teachers get to be on the frontlines, catching bullets for ideas that aren’t even theirs.
Late last year, the state legislatures started passing laws saying what teachers could say about complex social issues. Some people want the government to literally control teachers and shape every sentence that comes out of their mouth on this issue.
But when political tides shift and the legislature suddenly represents an opposing worldview, what will they require teachers to say or not say? What facts will they get to leave out and what lies will they get to insert into textbooks?
The fact of the matter is, our representatives don’t know our children. Legislators don’t have their interests in mind. They want to shape public opinion and do whatever they can to maintain power. They are completely out of touch with the needs and wants of our students.
If a teacher knows how to manage their classroom better than anyone, why do we need to pay fealty to monolithic bureaucracies who use us as political pawns?
The government needs to vacate the classroom
The fact is we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on education and these problems aren’t going away.
I am terrified for the future of education and the political discord in our country, and I am certain that it is children who will receive the bulk of the damage.
I am certain the only way to preserve the quality of education in this country is to keep the government as far from my classroom as possible.
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This piece was first published on the Students For Liberty website.
This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.