School Choice Enhances Results, Expands Understanding of "Public Education"

Okay, all you education transformers out there, I’ve got something for you to take to heart. Seriously, here’s your opportunity to pay attention, ponder, process, and personalize. If someone asked you to define or explain what public education is, what would you say?

For that purpose, I urge you to read a great new essay piece by James Shuls of the Show-Me Institute titled “Redefining Public Education.” Though the idea isn’t original with Shuls by any means, his piece deserves a few minutes of your time. The execution is very good, because it’s rooted in a compelling true story of a young man from St. Louis named Korey Stewart-Glaze:

In 2001,St. Matthew’s parish opened De La Salle Middle School. The small privateschool above Big Mo’s barbeque restaurant only had 20 students. Korey did not know what to think about the idea of attending De La Salle. In time, he would come to realize that this decision changed his life. With expected pride, he says, “De La Salleput me on a path to greatness.”

You simply have to read the rest on your own. It’s time to get to the main point. The next time someone misappropriates a term to attack you or another transformer as anti-public education, put this thought in your back pocket:

Most people have come to understand a very clear meaning of public education. They think of it as a system of education whereby students are assigned to schools based on where they live. They think of these schools as serving all students in their residential attendance zone. In the common definition, democratically elected boards govern public schools. This specific system, however, is not public education. It is just one method of delivering public education.

Ding. He’s got it. And now, so do you. Remember that public education simply is the goal of having an educated public who can be capably informed participants in a democratic society. While the government funds education and even has some role in ensuring accountable schooling, there simply is no reason why all those funds must be used by a government entity to administer and to deliver instruction.

In fact, given that the earnings of so many taxpayers have been taken to fund “public education,” they have every right to demand that artificial barriers between “public” and “private” school be broken down and that students and parents direct the funds to secure the best learning they can choose. One easy way to help would be creating a scholarship tax credit program for Colorado.

If we truly want the next generation of American leaders and other adults to be educated and engaged, why would we do anything less for these kids?