By MICHAEL TAVOLIERO
Do you remember the third idea of the American education theory, as stated by Albert Jay Nock in 1931? (See Must Read Alaska, March 11, Socialism has taken down our educational system).
“The one great assurance of good public order and honest government lay in a literate citizenry,” Nock said.
Alaska desperately needs a literate citizenry now. If Alaska is to survive and even thrive in the next 10 or 50 years, our children need to know how to read, write, do math, and think for themselves intelligently.
On April 28, 1814, Thomas Jefferson, from Monticello, wrote to Luis de Onís, Spanish envoy to the United States from 1809 to 1819, regarding the newly adopted Spanish constitution, “…. there is one provision (found in the new Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy. Promulgated at Cadiz on March 19, 1812) which will immortalize its inventors. It is that which, after a certain epoch, disfranchises every citizen who cannot read and write. This is new; and is the fruitful germ of the improvement of everything good, and the correction of everything imperfect in the present constitution. This will give you an enlightened people, and an energetic public opinion which will control and enchain the aristocratic spirit of the government.”
When looking at Alaska’s Constitution, the above Jefferson quotation, and the Spanish constitutional requirement that all citizens must read and write or lose their citizenship, how would the constitutional delegates have reacted to the founder of American education theory?
Remember in addressing the question of public funding of education found in Article VII, Section 1, on January 9, 1956, Delegate R. Roland Armstrong, Juneau constitutional delegate, stated “The Convention will note that in Section 1 that the Committee has kept a broad concept and has tried to keep our schools unshackled by constitutional road blocks.”
With this understanding the delegates decided to neither allow competitive education to include both government and private education nor a free-market approach to education. Ironically, the delegates shackled Alaska education with a state constitution in the land of the free and the brave. They prohibited a free-market education system by chaining public funds to a bigoted public purpose which established all Alaska government schools “free of sectarian control” and excluded religious or other private educational institutions from the direct benefit of public funds.
Followed shortly after Armstrong’s quote, Delegate John B. Coghill in his defense of his amendment to include “and indirect” in Article VI, Section 1, he misquoted Jefferson to further try and close the door on competitive education and advance the irrational bigotry against private and sectarian educational systems in the name of public purpose.
But where does that put us now?
Because the Alaska constitutional delegates feared religious indoctrination in Alaska’s education, they got today’s result: Marxist indoctrination.
Government education is a failure for two reasons. Government runs it, and education is not the purpose of government.
What can we do?
My personal recommendations are simple: Take government out of education. Structure education in Alaska to be the antithesis of Alaska Statutes Title 14.
The first step is to amend AS 14.17.300. Instead of a Public Education Fund, why not establish an education fund which consists of appropriations for distribution directly to the parents for the education of their children?
I know the first response to this may be, “The parents! Are you kidding? They’ll blow the money.”
If I may offer a rebuttal question, what are school districts, especially the largest in the state, doing right at this moment, not only with the state’s money, but your property tax money?
Aren’t they blowing it?
Alaska student performance and outcome are one of the lowest in the nation while cost per student is one of the highest.
Despite Alaska school districts’ continuous shout for more money, the 1990’s conclusions of Alaska 2000 stated clearly, “Expenditures are unrelated to school performance as schools are currently operated.” John Chubb of the Brookings Institution and Teny Moe of Stanford University concluded similarly, “There is no connection between school funding and school performance.” Thomas Sowell in his book, “Inside American Education” agreed. This political shout by the NEA is about more money for them, which has nothing to do with the performance of your children.
Parents are smart and when it comes to their children, they can be awesomely creative.
Of course, put rules in place that make parents accountable and responsible for the money. There are other ways to both save money and ensure parents’ participation too. For example, why not give an incentive for parents to donate a certain number of hours to the school as volunteers, per school year?
When it is all said and done, government education has proven to be a failure in Alaska. Why not construct another approach?
I realize just about now some readers are pointing out Article VII, Section 1, which prohibits “public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.” Something found unconstitutional by the SCOTUS in Espinosa – but our state leadership is afraid to change it. My contention is the public funds should go to the parents for the direct benefit of their children’s education. What the parent does with that money should not matter if this goal is achieved.
I recommend repealing state statutes for school districts and teacher tenure as well as reforming Title 14 to deregulate government education in favor of competitive education. If competition in our schools is really going to work, shouldn’t we remove all the barriers to give our children the best education possible coupled with the clear influence of the best people to influence them, their parents?
One of the central problems I see is our current interpretation of the definition of “public purpose.” When defined through the spectrum of top-down government, public policy is how government modifies individual behavior through regulations and ordinances to control them. In other words, government tells the people what to do.
When defined from a bottom-up government, public policy is how the citizens modify government behavior. This is vital especially on a local government level as this sets the public policy on the lower government strata with the purpose of upward policy development to the state and federal government.
In Black’s Law Dictionary, the term public purpose has been said to have the objective of “promotion of the public health, safety, morals, general welfare, security, prosperity and contentment of all the inhabitants or residents within a given political division.” Have we allowed local governments to pervert this objective by allowing local government to promote a collective authority?
The Alaska Legislature is the sole entity in the Alaska separation of powers doctrine with the power to make law. It has not just the authority to make law but the authority to restrict the two other branches of Alaska’s government, judicial and executive, when making law. It is also the only branch of government that controls education in Alaska.
Wouldn’t it be remarkable if the Legislature discovered that the current Alaska education model wasn’t working and decided to change it so we as parents controlled the educational outcome of our children?
Michael Tavoliero is a realtor in Eagle River, is active in the Alaska Republican Party and chaired Eaglexit. Part II of this series will be posted shortly.