CSE Principles of Education Reform

“We’ll use the taxpayers’ money to make sure the child learns. … We want to be concerned about the results, not about the structures.”

– Rodney Paige, Secretary of Education

The goal of education reform should be to provide all students with the opportunity to receive a quality education. To accomplish this goal, parents need the tools to become active participants in their child’s education, and to hold schools accountable. This can be accomplished through the following:

Give all parents a choice of where their children go to school.

All parents should have the power and opportunity to choose their child’s school – regardless of where they live or how much they earn. This can be accomplished in a number of ways to serve the needs of different communities:

Local communities should be allowed to create charter schools – independent public schools that are held directly accountable for producing specified educational results. Neither state nor local authorities should specify the educational methods charter schools must employ, limit charter school numbers or enrollment, or mandate who charter schools must hire.

Vouchers should be made universally available, so that all parents can afford to choose which schools their children attend. As a first step, vouchers can be offered to families whose children attend overcrowded or poorly performing schools.

Universal tax credits should be made available so that parents exercising choice are not forced to pay twice to educate their children. A “universal” tax credit allows any taxpayer to take a credit for money spent on tuition or educational expenses for any child, so that even low-income families can benefit from the tax credit through scholarships. Tax credits should not be refundable.

Education savings accounts should be expanded to allow parents to use money saved for elementary and secondary education, as well as higher education. The total annual contribution should be increased from the current, paltry $500.

Maintain the independence of private schools and home schoolers.

School choice plans, such as vouchers, tax credits, and education savings accounts, can play a significant role in giving parents effective choice over their child’s curriculum. Such plans can only achieve their promise if they avoid placing new curricular requirements or other regulations on private schools and homeschoolers.

Free the public schools to respond to parental choices.

Teachers and parents should have the maximum freedom to design a curriculum that improves academic achievement and accommodates different parents’ diversity of views about the types of education that they want for their children. Individual public schools are smothered in bureaucracy imposed by higher levels – federal, state, and the local school district – that prevent parents and individual teachers from educating children effectively.

Reduce the mandates and bureaucracy that inflate the cost of public education.

Qualified individuals with diverse professional backgrounds should be allowed to teach in both public and private schools, and government spending on education should provide local schools and school districts with flexibility to meet their needs, as determined by local parents, teachers, and principals. CSE also opposes increasing the size of the federal or state government through lotteries or other means.

Enact a Teacher Protection Act that frees teachers to maintain control of their classrooms.

State and federal governments should adopt a Teacher Protection Act, allowing teachers to better maintain control of their classrooms without fear of unreasonable retribution or lawsuits. The number of teachers purchasing liability insurance has increased 25 percent in the last five years. Teachers and other district employees deserve protection from civil and criminal liability when they act in conformity with state law and district rules. Enacting a Teacher Protection Act will return classrooms to the teachers, the schoolyards to our children, and our tax dollars to education, not litigation.

Make public education accountable to the taxpayers who fund it and the parents forced to turn over their children to it.

Schools that fail to serve the needs of local students should lose their funding as parents choose a different school. CSE opposes increasing the federal government’s role in education through, for example, setting standards for local schools. While there may be a role for states to direct public schools to engage in some type of testing, it is not clear that every state, or every school in a state, needs to do the same thing, or that the government needs to choose the test. Such decisions should be left to the local schools and the parents of the students they serve.”