Something’s wrong in America. We “reform” education every year and yet America slides backwards in ranking with other nations.

The National Center for Education Statistics in 2009 ranked America 15th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math. Want to know who is first? Shanghai, China was ranked first and then comes Finland.

I am tired of America’s failure at education because government only knows one solution to fixing its problems and that’s to pour more money into it. It’s not working and it’s time for us, the taxpayers, to change the way government does things.

Education restructuring, not reform, is absolutely necessary and, in the end, the best way to accomplish such a goal is to take as much government as we can out of education. However, we must have a strong national standard in both educating and testing our students and unfortunately that involves government to some extent. All students in the same grades must have the same text materials and tests instead of school districts setting their own standards.

We must have school vouchers that follow the child, not the school. Competition once made America the greatest nation on this planet. Educating our children has to be our priority over everything else and yet we are failing miserably at it. Competition must happen in educating our children. Our public schools are on the fast track from mediocrity to stupidity.

The very first step after ensuring all schools are on the same path to learning and testing is that parents must be able to choose where their child attends school. It doesn’t matter if it’s a public, private or secular school. Does the national teacher’s union want this? Of course not, because it will be immediately obvious as to which schools are failing. Government’s answer to its problems has always been to pour more money into it and pretend all is well.

Private schools could very well be the answer to correct our nation’s education problems. What we must allow is private schools, even private educational corporations if you will, to educate our children in such a manner that if they fail at their tasks, then they are out of business. If they fail to educate, then they must vacate. They must conform to a national standard just like any other school. At the same time we must also allow for-profit schools to educate our children. We must have a solid ranking system so that parents know the school their child is in does exactly what is required to educate their child and if the school fails, they must have the opportunity to place their child into another school system.

What is even more important is that parents are actively engaged in the education of their children, and therein lies America’s greatest problem. When I hear children state that they have a parent sign their failing report card only when they know a parent is whacked out on drugs or alcohol I then know that we, as a country, have a very serious problem with educating our children.

This is the first of two columns on education in America. Next week is the role of teachers and government unions.

Lane Hiltunen, of Windham, can be contacted at [email protected]

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