Make all schools charter schools, empowering parents and teachers to run excellent, innovative public schools. Your thoughts?

People should come to South Carolina to learn how we created one of most effective and innovative public education systems in the world. To do that will require visionary leadership to change the culture of public education, both inside and outside the system.

Last week’s Swamp Fox post, We All Pay For Poor Education And Obsolete Economic Development, observed that,

    For each of us to be more prosperous, each of us has to live in a community where education improves the skills of others around us… Each individual's share of taxes that support education is not just a charitable contribution to help others, it is an investment made in the enlightened self-interest of each individual who is more prosperous living in a more educated community.

Allan MacGregor Reid replied quoting Dr. Adrian Rogers,

    You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

Kevin Totherow writes,

    I believe that the state owes its citizens the assurance that everyone will get minimally adequate education for producing good citizens… I would love for the state to help pay my son's tuition as he goes to school.

At least when it comes to education, Dr. Rogers is profoundly wrong to define the role of government as a zero sum game, where one person has to lose for another to win. Mr. Totherow limits education to something we do for the benefit of others. Both miss the bigger point that education is a public good, where those who pay for education in taxes get more back in increased personal prosperity from living in an educated community than the taxes costs them. Edward Proulx quotes Derek Bok that,

    If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

An anonymous commenter from last week’s education post writes,

    It appears that everyone believes that Governor Sanford is against Education, he's not against education and would love to put more money into education.

Murray Brockman, President of the SC Governor's School for Science and Mathematics, who is in a position to know counters,

    Sometimes cost control is simply a substitute for thought, vision and leadership. Prudent investment requires careful consideration of many factors, choosing wisely among many options, and forceful leadership to convince others to join in taking a calculated risk. "Cut the budget" can be a brainless substitute for wisdom, and I believe that's the case here.

What we are lacking with regard to K-12 education is leadership. To say that public education is essential is not to say that the current system that we have is anywhere close to functioning as it must. We are stuck between those in denial of how bad the current situation is arguing that incremental improvements from the bottom are proof we are on the proper path, and those who would melt down the current system and start over. There is no political consensus in this state to abandon the public education system we have, so we need to build a consensus that can allow us to achieve the goal of becoming one of most effective and innovative public education systems in the world.

K-12 education in this state, in fact across the country, has a bureaucratic culture more concerned with preserving the status quo of how education is funded than with achieving excellence. As Bill Gates has noted, even if the system operates as designed it is obsolete and not adequately preparing students for the future. Accountability has been reduced to high stakes tests of facts crammed into students heads, which robs teachers of their profession and the ability to develop the whole student. I hear the alarm sounded loudly by professors in university honors programs who say that even the best and brightest high school students are not being equipped with the critical thinking skills necessary for them to be successful in the world of profound change in which they will live.

The first initiative in Trust in South Carolina: A Positive Campaign to Realize the Human Potential of Everyone is to empower parents and teachers to run excellent, innovative public schools. The key to rocketing to the top is giving teachers their profession back, by operating all schools as charter schools, with clear, transparent accountability that emphasizes critical thinking skills and creativity as essential to our children's success. While doing that, we must ensure access to high quality public schools for all students, especially children in poverty. We should consolidate the SC Department of Education and school districts into one statewide entity providing oversight and support, freeing parents and teachers in affluent areas to manage their schools, and providing the dollars saved to poor communities for salaries of excellent teachers.

That is a bold step that would change the dynamics of how public education works in South Carolina, based on trusting teachers and parents to create one of most effective and innovative public education systems in the world.

Click to join the Facebook group for Trust in South Carolina: A Positive Campaign to Realize the Human Potential of Everyone.

The most haunting comment from last week is from Tom Clarke. “John you know your just talking to a wall.” Tom, let’s hope you are wrong.

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All children don't need to go to charter schools. A charter is to be used to meet certain unique needs of a certain population of students. (I sent this twice because my name did not appear beside this post. I am Ray James, a public school teacher in Williamsburg County.) My email is [email protected].

All children don't need to go to charter schools. A charter is to be used to meet certain unique needs of a certain population of students.

I love your idea, but I wish you would expand your solution a little more. There was a huge jump between the "K-12 education in this state..." paragraph and the "The first initiative..." paragraph.

My wife is a teacher in Greenville County. She has seen many teachers that are lazy and only show videos and teach the minimum possible. The physiology that teachers are taught encourage mediocrity and the current system beats down excellence. Teachers aren't allowed to teach character or discipline because "there are no absolutes" and it would degrade the students.

Your idea is great, but it would require rooting out entrenched administration in schools and districts. I'm not saying to give up. Can you expand what the "baby steps" might be to win education back?

Teachers would be able to run their schools as they felt appropriate, and parents would be able to choose from among charter schools available. That's the ultimate empowerment for teachers and parents.