Over at Watchdog I have an article up today about the Fargo Public School District (yes, the people who threatened to lower education quality after voters shot down property tax levy measure) vowing to lobby against school choice legislation and to protect Common Core.
I’ve written pretty extensively about how ugly the Common Core issue has become. The school choice issue could be just as ugly.
Last year during the legislative session Rep. Mark Dosch, a Republican from Bismarck, proposed legislation that would have given parents opting out of the public schools up to 25 percent of their child’s share of public school funding to take to another school of their choice.
The money would have come from an appropriation set up by the legislature, not existing school funds.
I asked Rep. Dosch, who said he’s bringing back similar legislation next year, about Fargo Public Schools vowing to fight school choice and he expressed some frustration, suggesting that the schools were more concerned with their bottom line than with sound education policy:
“I would think that a school district or anyone in the education system would be more concerned about the student and quality education,” he said. “Public education is not the only answer out there. Unfortunately, when a public school district makes comments like this it says they’re more concerned about the money attached to the kids. To heck with the kids and what’s better for the kids and the taxpayers.”
Dosch defended the quality of North Dakota’s public schools, but he said parents and students should get a choice. “Don’t get me wrong, we have a great education system in the state, but that doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t get a choice on where to send their kids to get an education,” he said.
Dosch also noted that school choice could lighten the enrollment load in some of the school districts that have seen heavy growth. Dosch says many districts are increasing property taxes to build new schools (he’s right, there’s been a bit of a spending spree after the most recent property tax buy-down from the Legislature), and that enabling parents to opt out could lessen the load.
But I suspect many school officials – who always seem to want bigger budgets, bigger buildings and bigger payrolls – don’t see that as a feature of the legislation.
Then again, education policy is supposed to be about what’s best for students and their families, not education bureaucrats.
And there’s another question here: Is it really fair that citizens who oppose policies like Common Core, and/or support policies like school choice, have to fight lobbyists funded by their own tax dollars?