Here is another proposal I set forth in my previous campaign for Florida State House- this was published as a guest column by Florida Today Newspaper. This was also the straw that broke the camel’s back in my bid to run again- as the Unions refused to endorse me- and liberal Democratic activists could not stomach a candidate who was pro-life and pro-private school options. I was especially disappointed with the teacher union reps since my proposal is one that is so totally win-win from a teacher perspective, and it is obviously something in the interests of parents and their children. Pope Benedict has recently commented that Catholic schools should receive some state funding given the benefit these schools offer society. Here is the text of my proposal:
Dear Editor: (Published as Guest Column in Florida Today Newspaper (Mar.2008)
I would like to propose some original ideas for improving Florida’s primary and secondary education system. We have to try to create a win-win scenario for our children, for parents, for teachers, and society at large.
Parents have a fundamental right and obligation to see to their child’s education. Many parents object to the stressful FCAT system, or to the agnostic worldview inherent in the “God-sanitized” public schools. But only the parents of means can afford private schools, which may provide a better fit for a given family’s spiritual values or philosophy of education.
There are those who resent the very existence of public schools, and social programs in general. I don’t agree with the privatization movement when it comes to many essential public services. What we should do is expand our public funding, to include paying the salaries of a fixed percentage ( ratio of 1:20 students) of teachers at non-profit, accredited, private schools. The private school teachers could form a sister union with public school teachers, to cover only wage and benefit issues, leaving all other concerns to the individual schools.
These private schools better reflect the diversity of our society. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim schools could benefit, also schools with strong and positive African-American or Hispanic identities would be enabled. Private schools could emerge that reflect the space industry presence, with engineering, and other high tech/environmental specialties being highlighted.
The fact is that too many parents feel trapped by the current situation. The private schools they would long to enroll their children in, are increasingly priced beyond their budgets. If the state would kick in for just the teacher salaries, leaving the facilities, administrative costs and so forth, to the school itself- this would allow more alternative schools to become much more affordable. And if prevailing living wage guarantees are established, along with a sister union, the public school teacher unions should feel positive about expanding opportunities for individual teachers.
It is also time to look at new ways of enhancing teacher remuneration, which do not always rely on public funds. I would suggest the encouragement of private foundations forming for the purpose of rewarding teachers, who are going above and beyond, as motivators and instructors of our youth. Similar to the way various organizations provide achieving students opportunities for monetary scholarships, such things could be developed in the private sector to augment teacher pay, and provide the bonus incentives customary in many professions. Of course, there would need to be some oversight to ensure that there is no quid pro quo between the teachers and potential wealthy benefactors- corrupting course content or grades.
The bottom-line for me is that all parents should have a say in how their children are educated. We don’t live in a true family wage economy anymore, so there is ever more reliance on the public school system. Having more affordable school options will take some of the pressure off the taxpayer from having to build as many expensive, large-scale public schools. Children, families, teachers, will be better served and respected in a system that doesn’t economically discriminate against minority interests and the religious citizenry.
Tim Shipe (www.timshipe.com)