• mattmacpherson

Exceptional Education

I grew up in the Southern California and Las Vegas school districts. One of the primary reasons we moved to Utah 16 years ago was for the excellent schools and emphasis on education in our State. We enrolled each of our three children in the Dual Immersion program for Spanish in 1'st grade and continued that through to High School. My wife served as the Vice President of our kid's elementary school for six years and I spent many days, weeknights and weekends helping with fundraisers, school events, and other programs. We helped fund the annual cultural program for the Dual Immersion class where students from each grade level performed dances and songs from various Spanish speaking countries around the world. I also founded a chapter of WatchDOGS (Watch Dads of Great Students) at our children's elementary school, in conjunction with the PTA. This organization focuses on bringing good male role models to schools where students tend to have a higher level of single parent homes, especially those lacking a father. I signed up dozens of volunteers at our kickoff night and passed along the leadership to one of those volunteers the following school year. The ratings for this school in educational performance increased for the next several years, tripling their performance against other schools in the state. This school was and remains in the highest bracket for low-income households, which traditionally score poorly for a variety of factors.

My point in all of this is that when parents are invested in their children's learning, schools succeed. While I wholeheartedly agree that schools need to be well funded, I do not believe throwing money at any problem is a solution. Proposals for increases in school budgets need to clearly articulate how this will engage parents in their student's education, else I believe it will tend to not produce the results desired. This will only increase taxes for very little benefit.

Recently, after the earthquake, my son's Junior High School was damaged to the point of closure for the next several years. Similarly to my plans for infrastructure, schools themselves must be rigorously maintained, this is a basic function of government. A hidden blessing of the pandemic was that school was not in session and no children were injured in the partial collapse of the school walls.

Teachers need support as well. Too much of our school money goes to buildings, administrators, technology, food and transportation. All these are important logistical and administrative needs, but when less than 50% of the school's staff are classroom teachers, our priorities may need to be examined. I believe the majority of school funding should go to the classroom, including the teacher.

I believe in school choice and support charter schools and other private schools, as well as home schooling. I do not believe the government should regulate where kids go to school, though they should have some say in the basic curriculum that should be taught. In essence, government should regulate as little as possible in order to maintain a quality standard of education, and to direct funding of our school system. Schools should compete for students, competition fosters improvement, efficiency and quality. This is painful for government institutions due to the inherent challenges of public oversight, but this same burden can and should be placed to some degree on private schools as well. Wherever public funds are going, oversight and accountability is required.

Therefore, my priorities would be:

  1. Ensure that our schools are fully funded, with a majority of the funds going to the classroom, including the teacher. I would not propose tax increases to meet this requirement, but a re-balancing of administrative/logistical costs with the proposed increased costs. Any new spending would need to show how parental involvement will be increased to prevent a failure of this policy.

  2. Write new laws, change or remove existing laws that apply burdensome regulation on the ability of parents to choose where to send their children to school, and of the quality of education they receive.

  3. Require private schools to increase their level of accountability and transparency to allow better oversight of public funds by those being taxed.

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