January 12, 2022

LibertyLimited Government

Educational Funds Should Follow Students, Not Systems

By: David Collins

Today, in most parts of the country, federal educational dollars fund systems, not students.

What does this mean? For starters,

– Many parents are left without alternatives, and are forced to send their kids to schools within their district rather than a different school they deem is best for their child.

– Parents are forced to pay for their kids’ schooling, via tax dollars, regardless of whether the school shuts down or the quality of education severely suffers.

The educational system currently provides a hodgepodge of disincentives that neither drive schools to excel nor compete for students’ and parents’ patronage.

In education, the stakeholders are ambiguous. Are the stakeholders the government, the administration, the school boards, the parents, or the students? In theory, it should be the students, but more often than not, that gets easily lost in translation.

The incentives currently allow schools to operate with parents and students on the back-burner, and schools still receive funding regardless of quality management or parental and student dissatisfaction.

Unfortunately, the solution to every education crisis has always been to throw more money at it. In fact, some schools receive more funding when they underperform. It is the evergreen scapegoat for failed governmental systems. 

Why does underperformance mean more money in the door?

Additionally, COVID-19 has radically changed the educational funding conversation; the case for directly funding students has never been stronger. 

Due to increased virtual learning and a myriad of educational options, parents are beginning to realize their children shouldn’t have to choose between their local public school or homeschool.

There need to be other alternatives.

To be clear, there always have been other options for the well-off. Parents with disposable income can always send their kids to a private school or move to a different educational district with a better school system.

Educational funding of students is really a game-changer for parents who don’t have the financial means necessary to do what they know is best for their child.

It is estimated that each K-12 pupil costs $12, 624 per year. Many low-income families cannot afford to send their kids to a private school with that sticker price, let alone multiple children.

Imagine for a moment if that money went directly to parents instead of the educational system. 

-Would funding students drive schools to compete amongst one another (raising the quality)?

-Would funding students give parents more options?

-Would funding students allow failing schools to fail, and allow new ones to be created?

-Would funding students provide the proper incentives to both schools and parents to collaborate and come up with solutions?

In 2021, it’s hard to imagine the educational system is as backward as it is today. 

Funding students directly is one solution that would help drive serious education reform.

The opponents of funding students directly reveal more about who the system is designed to protect than it is about actually solving the educational issues of our time.

It is long overdue for educational funding to go to students, not systems. It’s time we put parents’ and students’ first.