South Carolina’s Education Mis-Reformation

children at school desks

Education was broken before COVID. Whenever there’s an entire region of your state called the Corridor of Shame because of government failure, you know something’s wrong.

Poverty is blamed for the dismal outcomes in certain regions. An inability to attract and retain quality teachers. More money is required. Better programming. Higher standards.

Yet our state is hording billions in unspent funds. Simply put: this is a problem of incentive.

Exposés, OpEds, and advocacy might provide soundbites for campaigns, but the real work that needs to be done is easily shelved when the legislators are seated.

South Carolina has continued to wrestle control of its education system from federal overreach. But rejecting Common Core standards and developing our own has not exactly sent South Carolina to the top of the rankings even if those rankings are suspect. (source)

The Education Oversight Committee’s 2020 report asks if we are allocating our money to the right things. We spend an average of $14,000 per student per year. Our system is funded to the tune of $10B total in combined federal, state, and local revenue.

So why are performance metrics stagnant? Why are regional rivals like North Carolina and Georgia outpacing us in reading and math skills? And why are we using an instrument called a “Student Engagement Survey” to benchmark academic progress? Engagement isn’t about skill. It’s about incentive. Which is why my daughter’s school bribed students to give high marks on the engagement survey. Bribed children. To lie.

Bad data makes for bad decisions. And why are we so bad at this? Because government. For all their experience and good intentions, the EOC and educators statewide are asking the wrong questions.

The failures of central planning and one-size-fits-all approaches to education are laid bare. The reality is that education is serving two primary purposes: 1) occupy children while parents are working, 2) meet the compulsory education obsession we have in this country.

It would be great if the government-funded schools and the education industrial complex were actually educating children, but our standards measurements indicate they are not.

The COVID pandemic provided us an opportunity to rethink how we enhance our children’s lives through education. How do we make them more confident, capable, and contributive to an ever-changing society that will need them actually engaged in a thousand different ways?

Six months at home and we’re still talking about going back to “normal” and returning to the way things were. Why?

Because, like all government monopolies (military, ports, higher education loans), there are powerful entities who have benefitted from the system we have. Even now, as parents are fleeing the government monopoly, charter schools, private schools, and homeschool platforms are looking for those education dollars. So that even if fewer students go back to campus and more families decide to take responsibility for educating their youngsters, we will see an increase, not a decrease in government spending in education. It’ll just be spent on vouchers instead of districts.

It’s an election year and we’re never going to hear “Defund Schools.”

To end government monopoly in schools would mean parents losing their daycare and breaking the law. So, politicians will keep pushing money into a failed system and the system will keep trying to contort itself to meet standards and deliver results. All the while asking the wrong questions and incentivizing the wrong behavior.

And it will fail another entire generation.

Want more debate on schools, choice, and the COVID conundrum? Click here to view Parenting Porcupines, the unofficial parenting podcast of the SCLP, Episode 6: Too Cool for School

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