My mother was a grade school teacher for 35 years and I remember very well the lessons learned from her stories. Some of her students were my age and I know that she had a profound effect on many of them, because we became friends in high school. Obviously teachers are very important. They are the second line of action in the education of children.
The first line starts at home. There were so many times I heard my mother talk of how the parents of problem children undermined their child's education. Instead of working with the teacher, they would defend the poor behavior and bad work habits of the child and attack the teacher. Luckily this was not the rule. But it drove home to me how important parents are in their children's education.
Thus I have a bottom up view of effective education. The most important teacher is the parents. The next most important person is the teacher. Next comes the principal, then the board members, and so on. With this in mind, I think we need to concentrate our resources at the bottom of the education pyramid and eliminate interference from the state and federal governments at the top.
I favor dramatically reducing the scope of the $11 Billion State Board of Education. I don't think we are getting $11 Billion worth of education from our investment. And we still pay property taxes. Most districts only get about 30% of their money back from the state. So it is safe to say that the money is not wisely spent. If we reduce the size of the SBOE to a minimum mission of dealing with indigent children and the very poorest of districts, we can balance the state budget and begin the task of eliminating taxes. With more money in their pockets, parents can afford the local costs associated with education.
Freed from the weight of mandates and bureaucracy, local districts can take control and allow good teachers to innovate. Local boards can make decisions that better respond to the needs of their community. For example, open enrollment decisions and associated vouchers could be handled between school districts. Charter school creation would not be capped by the state. There is no reason to have the state intervene in these decisions. Plus, competition between districts will help keep costs low and standards high.
Home schooling could likewise be freed from onerous regulations imposed by a state that has no concept of the needs of the home schooled child. Local districts could establish standards in concert with the parents without outside pressures. It is time to start treating home schoolers as a valuable resource to be nurtured, not as renegades in need of control. I would encourage homeschooling parents to network with other homeschoolers to share resources.
We need to put the responsibility of education where it belongs: in the home and in the community. Illinois cannot afford big government interference in our schools.