Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty

A Proposal for Decentralized Education by grassroothawaii
June 29, 2010, 8:58 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

By Kelsey Winther

At the end of May, Carson had a great post on the problems with the new federal education standards which Hawaii has agreed to adopt. While this may be the only option for Hawaii given federal restrictions, these national education initiatives, like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, will not be successful and will actually harm America’s schools.

There are four reasons why a decentralized educational policy is better for the students of America’s public schools.  First: national standards fail because the approximately 15,000 school districts across the nation are all different.  It is impossible for federal bureaucrats to write standards that are a perfect fit for every district. Students in New York might benefit from a different style of education than students in Hawaii.  Both should receive a quality education but what that means might be different for the two for them.

The second benefit is that parents are given a voice.  If what is being taught at a school is determined in Washington, a group of parents in one district cannot be involved is influencing the policy.  However, if the decisions are being made in the district there is a possibility for parents to be informed and voice their concerns about the education of their students.

Third, decentralized education allows teachers to have a say in what they teach. In the same way that parents cannot influence Washington, teaches are bound by universal standards they cannot help to write, even though they have the local knowledge to do so. When education is controlled at the federal level, teachers are required to teach what the government tells them, rather than what would be best for the students in that district.

The fourth benefit of allowing school districts to operate independently is it creates laboratories across the nation to determine what the best methods of education are. Each district operates as a test of the policies it implements.  Failures are localized to a single district and can be avoided by others.  Meanwhile successes can be copied by other districts.  In a system of federal standards, an unsuccessful methodology might take billions of dollars and years to implement across the nation before it is seen to be a failure.

As Hawaii moves ahead with national standards it is important to remember that real involvement at the local level and not more federal control is the key to improving education.


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