Michael Tavoliero: Government education is a failure



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.


  1. Feeel the communism ! Only a matter of time. Threatening letters, door to door visits. More false flags, it’s for the children. Tons of fees, income taxes, it’s for your safety.

  2. As things stand, parents DO control the educational outcome of their children. One can opt out of public school by homeschooling, or enrolling in private school. The idea that we continue to pay for public education without reaping any benefit is something that should be worked out in the legislature. Ending taxes to support an institution that is anathema to what it claims should be a common sense slam dunk.

  3. People forget! adult caregivers must be readers themselves, they must be daily reading to and with their children. There should be a well kept mini home library with quality written and illustrated books in addition regular visits at the community library. The bible is the starting place to knowledge, and knowledge of it gives parents appropriate guidance for what material kids should be reading that increases their literacy. Not all children book series helps the children. If all parents were committed to read 10 various books a day ranging in differculty to their children from baby to kindergarten, 7 days a week, for the first 5 years, then THAT generation will be at grade
    level reading by 2nd grade and likely 2 grades ahead. Even the caregiver will had increased their own literacy from daily reading to their children.

  4. I have read our state constitution statement on education. The moment I saw it I felt something was wrong. I discovered a few years back what that was. The first amendment of the US is in direct conflict with our state constitution’s statement. Has any court case ever come of this?

  5. Alaska teachers work very hard but they are dishonest brokers. They have to know why education results are now terrible whereas 50 years ago results were quite good. Is it the union that prevents them from being honest and telling us the truth? Is it political correctness? Why won’t the Alaska press investigate the high grades students are given compared with the low to mediocre SAT and ACT scores achieved by those same students? Exactly who is fooling whom? Are parents duped by the high grades (or do parents even care)? Is much of this the fault of school administrators who have no backbone and know that if they dodge the responsibility the teachers must receive the blame but will be protected by the union? Should good students and bad students be segregated beginning in the lower grades? Is there a high correlation between low test scores and students from broken homes?

  6. Complete and total failure.

    There are two ways to fight back. Both unlikely.
    1-Parents actually get involved. Meet the teacher, attend PTA, volunteer at school, and most of all, bother to vote.
    2-Eliminate teachers unions.

  7. Good article Michael. Sound bite: “No taxation without representation.” Why should I have to pay taxes to fund a school system I won’t have my children participate in? A State-wide school voucher program as you are hinting at would work just fine. There is nothing more terrifying to the public school monopoly than competition. As a veteran homeschool teacher, I understand homeschool isn’t for everyone. I also understand that some parents are very thankful the public school option is there – basically as a babysitter, and if the kids learn something so much the better. Some of them profess to actually like what the public schools are doing – though if they really knew they would be horrified. This is human nature – self-centered. Working out a solution requiring self-sacrifice will never pass the legislature or a plebicite, even if it is the best possible solution. The public school mess is a symptom of the larger issues in our entire society.

  8. The US Constitution is already perfect. We are working on a more perfect UNION [of states] though it too is already perfect.

  9. An Alaskan scholar of merit is so odd in Alaska that she is fervently denied to exist. “Just what the world needs – another smart woman. You better watch that.”

  10. “Creditable scholars” have said one in four neighbors are diagnosable sociopaths. They lie to everyone. Liberty is linked to morality which is the anthithesis of romance western genres. Take it from there. Watch TV. It will help you.

  11. Not trying to start any issues but asking because I am honestly curious and have never had a real conversation with a school choice person. In your ideas of school choice/vouchers how will that work for those of us who don’t have kids in school ? are we still taxed to support a system we don’t use or haven’t used in decades ?

    • Whether you have children in the system or not, you reap the benefits and also the problems. The workforce and those who don’t participate (i.e. those bums on the street corners) all had an education of some sort. The fact that public education is now turning out idiots means you suffer every time you need a service, or go to a store, or engage in commerce of any kind. It goes beyond the fool who doesn’t know how to make change.

      And we pay for the ne’er do wells, too.

    • Hopefully improve the quality of future Alaskans, who one day you’ll need to depend on.

      Also, again hopefully, get a much better bang for buck.

      My kids are long since out of public ed, too. I get your “pain”. It’s long overdue to shift funding off homeowners and onto the whole community. Renters should not be allowed to take advantage of public ed without some skin in the game

    • Rick, that is a good point. My wife has taught in private schools for 35 years. The parents basically pay for 2 educations, the private one and the public one they don’t use. Let’s eliminate all school taxes, then let parents pay for their child’s education with their tax savings. Otherwise, vouchers are the best option. Can only be accomplished through a constitutional convention.

  12. Great questions. I am not a school choice advocate. School choice has been co-opted by the Marxists (Are you a Marxist?) as another branch of government education. I am for competitive education completely removed from government control and influence. Have you read Espinoza v Montana dept of Revenue? Have you read Article VII, Section 1, of the Alaska State Constitution? Do you agree that those of us who do not have children in school should contribute to support the system? For me the state must maintain and operate an educational system. There is nothing in the constitution which requires the non-productive anathema of property tax supported education. It’s bull shit in my opinion. We’ve had it since statehood and it is a failure. Ultimately, parents must be responsible for the education of their children, not the government. As a matter of fact government has no place in education, has proven its management and operation of education is incompetent and corrupt and removed the core strength and tenacity of the parental generations in this effort. It is a huge hill to climb, but worth every step as this is the possible productive future of our community, our state and our country.

    • Michael, I long ago read, and have never forgotten, a very cogent comment: that government should be separated from education in the same way that government is separated from religion, and for similar reasons.

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