Fewer Mandates, More Choices Needed in Education
Schools today are asked to teach a lot more than reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic; and if lawmakers have their way, the list of topics mandated for instruction will continue to grow. Currently, proposals in the Missouri Legislature would require schools to caution students about sexual predators and inappropriate text messages, beef up bullying prevention, and cram in more civics education. While there may be value in these issues, continually mandating new requirements is counterproductive to improving Missouri’s educational system. It invites mission creep, distracts from core educational duties, and causes controversy.
Schools, and parents, do not need more mandates; they need more freedom.
Instead of dictating what schools should do, lawmakers should focus their attention on giving parents more educational options. Allow parents to choose the school that most closely aligns with their values and their sense of mission, whether the school is private, public charter, or traditional public. We cannot make sure that every school caters to every family’s needs and preferences, but we can make sure every family has the ability to choose the school that comes closest.
Simply layering mandates on top of one another will not solve any of our educational problems, and it will not improve the educational system. A system built around school choice, however, has a better chance at both. It will allow individuals to choose the school that meets their needs, without forcing their will on others. Choice also will help create a system of continual improvement, which leads to increased efficiency.
We cannot mandate our way to a system that meets everyone’s needs. The more we try, the further we erode a local school’s ability to adapt, innovate, and meet the individual needs of the students it serves. It’s time to stop asking schools to do more and more. It’s time to start allowing parents to choose.