Why Not Public School Competition for All?

Public Domain through Wikimedia Commons

One thing about the Texas public education industry. It loves competition. Well, at least student competitions. But this begs the obvious question. If competition is such a meritorious endeavor, why not have it for all involved – including schools themselves?

Student participation in seemingly endless rounds of competition has become an integral part of school cultures. Why should teachers and administrators get a pass from their performance also being subjected to rigorous contest? The answer is they shouldn’t, but for now, they do.

The solution to such inequity? Parent empowerment. Why shouldn’t parents be able to choose the best education option for their children? And if this comes from universal parental choice in the form of Education Savings Accounts or some similar choice mechanism creating enhanced learning outcomes via a competitive market between traditional public schools, public charter schools, private schools and even home schooling, then so be it.

Most private sector employees operate in competitive environments, why should the education industry be different?

The depths of student competition

Both the University Interscholastic League and the Texas Music Educators Association sponsor their respective band competitions. UIL features marching band as well as concert/sight reading and solo-ensemble contests. TMEA appears to more focus on individual competitions leading to an annual selection of the All-State Bands, Choirs and Orchestras.

UIL sponsors academic competitions in the areas of Accounting, Computer Applications, Current Issues and Events, Essay Competitions, Literary Criticism, Ready Writing, Social Studies, Spelling and Vocabulary, STEM (Calculator Applications, Computer Science, Mathematics, Number Sense, Robotics, Science), Theatre (One-Act Play, Theatrical Design, Film), Journalism (Editorial Writing, Feature Writing, Headline Writing and News Writing) and finally Speech and Debate (Prose Interpretation, Poetry Interpretation, Informative Speaking, Persuasive Speaking, Debate).

UIL athletic competitions at both the high school and middle school levels include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, team tennis, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo and wrestling.

In a spirit category which focuses on cheerleading, contest categories are crowd leading, fight song and band dance.

Student competition opportunities appear voluminous and with expectations apparently quite high.

The rationale

The University Interscholastic League contends that its contests “build upon the academic skills developed in the classroom and offer students an opportunity to stretch their talents above and beyond those requirements.”

Sounds like a goal the public education industry should extend to itself. After all, competing for students would allow teachers and school administrators to build upon their professional skills developed in the classroom while offering an opportunity to stretch their educational talents above and beyond basic state requirements.

Good for the goose, why not for the gander?

Moving forward

The Texas Parents Matter website notes:

Studies over the last 25 years show that increasing education options improves proficiency and education attainment for participating students and the local public schools. Choice programs also have high satisfaction rates and improve social and economic mobility.

The site further explains:

Universal parental choice means giving every parent access to the learning environment that best serves their children. All parents should have the widest possible choices – be it traditional public schools, public charter schools, private schools, or homeschool. Thirty-one states have already established programs that put this vision into action. Universal Education Savings Account programs (ESAs) are one method to give parents the power to customize education to their child’s specific needs.

Public education advocates have long maintained how “it’s about the kids.” Updating Texas’ education system provides an opportunity to demonstrate that statement’s sincerity.

While a good thing for Texas students to experience that competition isn’t something to fear, it’s time for Texas public school teachers and administrators to learn the same lesson.

Lou Ann Anderson worked in central Texas talk radio as both a host and producer and currently hosts Political Pursuits: The Podcast. Her tenure as Watchdog Wire–Texas editor involved covering state news and coordinating the site’s citizen journalist network. As a past Policy Analyst with Americans for Prosperity–Texas, Lou Ann wrote and spoke on a variety of issues including the growing issue of probate abuse in which wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney are used to loot assets from intended heirs or beneficiaries.

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