In a recent guest column, Rep. Franke Wilmer, an MSU professor, said, “Keep education system public, not privatized,” and said the Legislative session had many bills that bore a striking similarity to model bills from the legislative agenda of the corporate bill-mill American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Whether a particular bill is an ALEC bill, or written by a former ALEC member like the National Association of Charter Schools, a bad idea driven mainly by out-of-state interests is still a bad idea. Representative Wilmer mentions the American Legislative Exchange Council as if it were a bad organization. Google “ALEC” and you will find that it is a "Partnership of America's state legislators and members of the private sector that works to advance free-market enterprise and limited government." She says that it is driven mainly by out-of-state interests which gives a totally false impression that we Montanans are not concerned about improving education.
A response in needed! I too served the people of Montana. As a state senator I was on the Senate Education Committee, and am also the only first-year legislator ever appointed to the Legislative Council (now Legislative Services). As a member of the Council I was chairman of the committee on school construction. My committee and I visited, questioned, and listened to numerous school administrators, board members, and faculty around Montana. It was one of my greatest learning experiences pertaining to Montana education. And my formal education gave me the unique experience to compare public and private education. I attended public school in Buffalo, N.Y., a private boarding “prep" school in Massachusetts, a private day school in a Buffalo suburb, Purdue University, and The University of Montana, plus having taught and coached here in Montana. Two personal examples vividly show the difference between public and private education. New York state required public school students to pass a regents exam for each subject at the end of the year before moving on to the next year in that subject. At the private school regents exams were utilized at times, such as when I took Spanish I. We were required to take, and pass, a Spanish II regents exam at the end of our first semester. Yes, in one semester we accomplished what the public schools were accomplishing in two years. Next example. At Purdue I took a biology class. I literally did not have to study. We had covered the material thoroughly in high school.
My point is that students can and will learn, can and will accomplish, more than our public schools are providing for them if given the opportunity. Today the slogan “Graduation Matters” is prevalent, however every University and College has “bone-head” classes for freshmen. Over the past 50 or so years, our students have slipped from first to around 20th, when compared with students from other countries.
That decline must be reversed. If our children and grandchildren have any chance to compete in this fast-changing world they must have the tools to do so.
We must insist on better education. Progress is always accomplished through competition. Competition creates innovation, and better products. If you wish to become a better tennis player you must play against better players. You will never improve by competing against those at an equal level. You need a challenge. Along with the desire to do better, improvements in everything come from competition.
Our country became great due to our freedom and our economic system of free enterprise. It created the opportunity for competition. And private schools provide that competition in education. It's a win/win because both public and private schools can and will improve. Creativity and critical thinking, both a must, are also generated. Creative thinking is critical for problem-solving in every activity if one is to succeed. Also, the encouragement of goal setting is a must! Students must be encouraged to set goals and must also learn how to cope with disappointments.
Professor Wilmer, and others in public education, want the public trough full, and ever increasing, to preserve the status quo which is not working.
By suspending the education portion of one's property tax while their child is attending a private school, will help create the desired win/win.
—Fred Carl is a former Republican state senator who lives in Missoula.