When you read as much as we do about school choice and education in the media you begin to notice “themes.”  These days we are seeing a concerted effort in the media to disparage online/virtual learning and an ongoing effort to keep reminding politicians and teachers how (supposedly) low teacher morale is after the last legislative session.  We would like to discuss these two issues.

First, we understand the efforts to disparage and discredit online/virtual learning.  The “establishment” sees it as a current and real threat.  They fear loss of funding to online learning and as every bureaucracy has proven their original purpose and intent always evolve into merely growing and feeding the bureaucracy.  In this case doing what ever is best and required to educate all of our children, to the best of our ability, given limited resources becomes secondary to funding the districts, schools, administration, teachers, etc.

When we as a society decided it was best for society to have an educated citizenry and willingly approved taxation to serve this purpose we did so to…(wait for it)…educate children – not to feed a bureaucracy or to provide a jobs program for bureaucrats.  We will willingly fund education, but we demand we properly educate our children, to provide them the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in an increasingly technical and global economy.  Not to do so should be a crime and is immoral.

We all know intuitively and the evidence consistently shows that in the classroom it is the teacher that has the greatest impact on whether and how much a student learns.  Online/virtual learning gives limitless numbers of children, regardless of their circumstances or location, access to top quality lessons and teachers in any given subject.  How can this be a bad thing?

Online/virtual learning is NOT for every student.  It requires discipline and commitment by both the student and parents.  However, there are many who do succeed with online learning and, for a myriad of reasons, it meets their educational needs.  Further, no one is conscripted into online learning.  It is a choice the student and parents make.  If it turns out not to fit their needs, they are free to return to the traditional education environment.

We also read of concerns about some education providers being for-profit.  Come on folks, most of us are for-profit employees.  That doesn’t make us evil or somehow prove we have nefarious motives.  We agree to provide our skills, knowledge or labor and we receive a profit for doing so from our employers.  Should we get lazy or fall behind in the skills or knowledge required to properly do our job our employer will fire us.  It is the same for a for-profit education provider.  It behooves them to succeed for if they fail to educate the students, the parents and taxpayers will fire them.  Try firing your local public school that is failing to properly educate or graduate students.

Next up is the morale of Tennessee teachers.  How we teach children has evolved.  It was originally the job of parents to educate their children.  The wealthy would hire private tutors or send their children to private schools.  Then we created a system of taxpayer funded, free education and required all children to be “educated.”  Even this has evolved in how and what we teach.  Education today is evolving or trying to do so and needs to do so.  Much of our system is destroying the lives of millions of children.  We understand change can be scary, but change (reform) is required to improve education in the United States and we can only do it together.  We can’t change something as big as our education system if we are not all working together, as a team, with children as our focus.  We must be willing to accept change, regardless how scary or uncomfortable it is or even if it requires additional effort on our part.

For roughly the last 40-50 years we have known we were failing to adequately educate and prepare our children to compete and succeed.  In some cases we are failing to even graduate or keep our children safe.  We have tried following the recommendations of the “experts” by (on average-in real dollars) tripling our spending, reducing class size, school size, teacher certification, using fad methods, etc.  These have all failed.

It is ironic in a society that was created on and has prospered with the free market, we chose a centrally planned, monopoly to educated and prepare our most treasured and important resource, our children.  Despite the evidence all around us that competition encourages and forces innovation and improvement we cling to the centrally planned, monopoly education model.  We have dabbled in competition with charters, vouchers, etc.  Despite the fact that these experiments have been too few and too highly regulated to apply more than nominal market pressures we have seen they work…despite of what many of you have been told.

A free market education will not only improve education for our children (the whole point of this exercise), but it will improve opportunities, benefits and pay for teachers as well.  In a free market the best employees are paid more and fought over by employers.  In a free market to be a great school you will have to attract the best teachers with better benefits, pay, etc.  Yes, bad teachers may be forced into new areas of employment, but is that a bad thing?

People become teachers for different reasons, but most love children, learning and want to know their life was spent making the world a better place by being a blessing to the children they taught.  We would ask teachers to do their own research, set aside their fears and take the time to learn for themselves the truth of what really does and can work to improve education. We have links available to books and studies on our Fact-finding page, links to organizations fighting to improve education on our Resources page, videos on our Multimedia page links to recent news and commentary on our News page.  Since most don’t have broad enough interest or time to invest in buying books or reading complex studies our goal is to make learning about the success and importance of school choice as easy as possible, with easy to understand information; however, what we have linked to or written about is a mere bucket in an ocean of information.

There is overwhelming research, gold standard studies, books, examples and evidence of the success of school choice and the benefits to students and teachers, but it is wasted if politicians, parents and teachers are unwilling to do their own research, but are content to told by the “experts” what is true.  Please, set aside fears; do your own research, then join the fight to provide every child in Tennessee the education they need and deserve.

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