Last night, I was privileged to meet both of my opponents and a number of candidates for other offices at the Modern Maturity Center for the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum. Among the topics discussed was education. A number of educators from the audience came to me afterwards to commend me for my comments on education. In my answers, I noted that there was a shared consensus among everyone on the stage that one of the most important things that could be done for education was to ensure that more education dollars were actually spent in the classroom rather than on administrative costs at the state and local levels, but that despite the apparent agreement between the Democrats and Republicans present, the goal hadn't been achieved.
What was distinctly absent from the responses of the other candidates was any discussion of CHOICE. Delaware has one of the highest levels of education spending per pupil in the country, so the money is there. If our results are not what we would want or expect for the money that is being spent, and if the political powers that be have not been able to achieve their goals with budgets and regulations despite the apparent agreement on those goals, then what is to be done?
My answer focused on the issue of choice. If parents and students aren't getting the education they need and want from the public schools in their district, they should have the choice of moving those education dollars to a school that will meet their expectations. If that means another public school, a private school, or homeschooling, they should have the freedom to vote with their feet and the option to hold that final rebuke over the heads of their school administrators.
Public education in Delaware holds a monopoly. Bloated budgets that spend more on administrative overhead than they do on actually providing the services demanded are not a bug, they are a feature of that monopoly. Only by holding the state Department of Education and public school districts accountable for results through retaining the option to fire them can inflated costs and sub par results be brought under control and accountability be restored.
The two-party candidates agree that more tax dollars need to be spent in classrooms instead of on administration. They agree that special interests should not hold more sway than professional educators and parents. They cannot seem to bring themselves to restore choice as the ultimate mechanism for accountability in education.
If I am elected to the General Assembly on November 6th, choice will be my policy towards education.