About 60 years ago, the musical satirist, Tom Lehrer, wrote a song about the results of the next major war with nuclear weapons proliferation. He had a rhyme that went, “Universal bereavement, an inspiring achievement.” Perhaps we can update this to reflect what is going on in public education in our state.
Our representatives have expanded the number of allowable charter schools. We don’t need more charter schools, nor more “maggot” (that’s not a misspelling!) schools to upgrade K-12 education in North Carolina. What we need is to make all schools charter schools, allowing all parents to have a choice in where and how their children will be educated.
The Department of Public Instruction indicates that the average per pupil expenditure was approximately $8,500 for the 1.5 million students enrolled in both public and charter schools in 2012-13. Take this amount and give it in a single payment to all residents who have qualified children. Then all responsible adults can make their own choice as to which school they wish their children to attend.
If parents want children to attend a prestigious independent school, they can supplement this sum with their own resources or beg a discount scholarship from school authorities.
If parents want their children to attend a single gender school or a coed school, they can start their own by joining together and finding qualified administrators and teachers to inaugurate one. Distributing the per pupil average expenditure each year to parents is surely in keeping with the entrepreneurial spirit that has made our country great.
If parents want a single race school, they can have it. Or one that teaches in Mandarin, or Russian, or Arabic, or Hebrew, or Spanish, even one that teaches in English. Want the Common Core? Create a school that will use that curriculum. Want nothing to do with the Common Core? Start your own school! Want one that specializes in math, or science, or athletics? Get a group of parents who feel as you do and start your own. Want a school close to home? Start one! A school only with students with 120+ IQs? Done! One for children with special needs? Done! Uniforms? Done! Evolution? Done! Creationism? Done!
With the closing of the public schools as we know them, many teachers and administrators will be available to provide professional assistance in the start-up processes of any institution.
And the state has only to benefit from this. As schools are founded, a great demand will be created to rent the now-closed public schools. The state will begin to collect income from this demand.
And these rentals are not the only competition that the greatness of America fosters. Entrepreneurs will arise among the teaching professionals now out of work to start their own charters. Some may even entice students with more creative and economical curricula, reducing costs below the amount given yearly to parents so that those who enroll can keep the economy achieved.
Maybe some parents will follow the lead to homeschooling and retain the entire payment from the state for their own personal use as they take personal charge of the education of their children. This may go far in reducing our welfare rolls.
Boards of education? Not a problem! As parents enroll their children in these now universal charter independent schools, each with its own board, they become eligible to vote for board members and serve as such since all must be chosen solely among parents of children enrolled in each school. Local control is a built-in benefit of the process.
But what if parents still want the kind of school they have always had? They had better move to Texas following those teachers who are leaving North Carolina for the Lone Star State. Perhaps North Carolinians have figured out that our license plate motto, “First in Flight,” pertains to the movement of our good teachers. First in flight, good night, last one out turn out the light. “Universal achievement, an inspiring bereavement!”
Gilbert C. Brown, Ed.D., of Chapel Hill was the headmaster of the American School of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 1963 to 1987 and director general of the Lincoln School, San Jose, Costa Rica, from 1989 until his retirement in 1993.