Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Kids Want More, Education Officials Want Less

Saw a very interesting gap between Kentucky high school students and the state's education bureaucrats in two stories in state newspapers. First, the Kentucky Post reports that students want tougher academic standards in public schools. Then, as if on cue, the Louisville Courier Journal reports on a proposal from education bureaucrats asking the federal government to lower the expectations the schools are held to.

I say we go with the kids on this one.

The Kentucky Department of Education wants the 2001 federal standards lowered for them by shifting the focus of testing from reading and math to include social studies, "practical living" (good grief!), and arts and humanities. I'm not sure what they mean by practical living, but suspect they want a pass if our high school students can show mastery of shoe tying skills. Further, they want to lower even the appearance of accountability by dropping annual test requirements and going to every other year. And then, of course, they want a reprieve from the requirement to allow students to transfer from failing schools after two years, making it three instead. That is what this is all about -- resisting calls to increase standards and accountability for doing what schools are paid tax dollars to do.

What we have here are divergent interests. Our children know that their very survival in the knowledge-based economy depends on how much they know. Too many education officials are bureaucratic drones who are too focused on preserving their own cushy jobs without too much work.

Again, I suggest we go with the kids on this one and let the managers of the public school system sweat a little bit.

From a political perspective, I think education could be the perfect wedge issue. Democrats in Kentucky have presided over mediocre results for decades. Republicans should show the courage to make them answer for their failure. Let's make Democrat lawmakers choose between children and their teachers' union supporters.