Annapolis Institute Overview


School reform is inevitable

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Rocky Mountain News, October 27, 1992

High drama, comedy and dark humor seem to be driving public discussion of the public school amendments ‹ both the “tax now/reform later” proposal (Amendment 6) and the proposal to give school choice to everyone, not just the rich (Amendment 7).

Somehow, in all this discussion of budgets, regulations and the public school “system,” there must be a place to address the educational needs of children. That issue, unfortunately, has been lost in the twitching spasms of those resisting change.

If we favor quality education, then we cannot 1) keep rewarding an education bureaucracy that is not performing and 2) keep denying educational choices to those who need them most.

Those who would raise taxes, increase spending and limit choices are now moving up the heavy artillery. Like all forces of the status quo, they are well-financed by special interests and will not pull their punches.

It’s a clear sign that advocates of more taxes and spending for the insatiable education bureaucracy know their proposals are in trouble.

Nevertheless, there is comedy: Gov. Roy Romer is now telling us that “the quality of public education is much better than many people would lead you to believe.” Fact: It was Romer who persuaded many of us of the serious problems of education in the first place. These problems were extensively documented by the National Governors’ Association education task force, which, thanks to Romer’s leadership, was effective in shaping the nation’s education debate.

There is high drama: Those in favor of more taxes for the education bureaucracy predict “massive shortfalls,”, chaos, lawsuits and planning bottlenecks (I guess that could go in the “comedy” category) if citizens vote “no” on Amendment 6 and “yes” on Amendment 7. We’re sure to hear more of this before Nov. 3.

There are threats: Many value the diversity and spiritual dimension that parochial schools bring to the community. Yet, those supporting the education bureaucracy warn that expanding choices for all kids by making private schools part of public education’s delivery system will “drive religion out of the religious schools.” We are also told that if we resist increasing taxes for education, government will cut nursing home care for the poor and elderly. Answer, in both cases: not unless we let it.

There is dark humor: Those wanting more taxes and fundamental reform say private schools “operate outside of quality.” They’re on to something here.

Those who want more taxing without fundamental reforms are just getting revved up. They may even win on Nov. 3. They certainly have resources.

But eventually they will lose. They are on the wrong side of history. Technology and human needs are both heading in the direction of more choices and more consumer control, not less; more variety, more niche markets and not standardization; more control by individuals and less by bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, the proponents of higher taxes are trying to subordinate the need to expand educational services and improve educational performance to a budget problem. We should not let them do this – which is why we should vote “no” on Amendment 6 and “yes” on Amendment 7.

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