If it’s time to “defund” the police department of Minneapolis, maybe it’s also time to “defund” the K-12 sector of what passes for public education in Minnesota. The idea is to fund parents instead. The radical idea of school choice will directly empower parents, which is something that defunding the police will not do.
In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis a debate is underway to amend the city charter which requires a police department of a size commensurate with the city’s population. It’s all part of an effort to defund the police and “reimagine” policing. In the process a consensus seems to have emerged on the left that a certain public employee union has too much power and must be reined in, or perhaps even eliminated. That union, of course, is the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. Apparently, the problem with this organization isn’t just a few bad apples but the “entire tree” (to borrow from a DFL legislator). If that’s true, then the only solution is to chop it down.
But why stop there? Maybe it’s time in cities and states around the country to defund and reimagine something else. As a part of this process, maybe it’s also time to return to the reactionary days of FDR and JFK, both of whom thought that public sector unions were a bad idea whose time should never come. After all, bad apples—and perhaps rotten trees—might not be limited to one type of public sector union. Isn’t it possible that our problems are deeper, perhaps even more systemic, than that?
For that matter, isn’t this the sort of problem that faces any organization which features tremendous, even unwarranted, job security? Such security could mean that a few bad apples will eventually rot the entire barrel and perhaps even infect fully grown trees. Think about virtually every city council in many of our major cities. One-party government can itself be conducive to producing immoveable objects, including rotting apples.
Minneapolis has been a one-party town for better than a half-century now. Whether tree or barrel, this is a city that needs a serious pruning, if not a thorough cleansing. And it’s far from the only one.
So, just how far does the Minneapolis City Council think things should go? Not very far, it would seem. There, uniform sets of jaundiced eyes are trained on a single public employee union. No doubt their goal is simply to destroy the existing police department and the current union before replacing both with a subservient department/company union that the council will completely control. Of course, this would all be done in the name of progress.
But this sort of progress could prove to be a very slippery slope for a progressive Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party and its public sector union allies. After all, it defies logic and common sense to think that that only one such union deserves close scrutiny.
If the council succeeds in its effort, perhaps others might conclude that this is the right time to challenge the rotting fruits of what has been called reactionary liberalism. That would be a liberalism determined to maintain a status quo that could stand a thorough housecleaning.
After all, two can play this game (that is anything but a game). This is especially the case at the state level, where one-party DFL rule is not yet complete and could still be overturned long enough to accomplish some seriously needed reforms. The same might hold true for other blue or bluish states as well.
Those reforms should concentrate on the most powerful public sector union in Minnesota, namely Education Minnesota. If it’s time to “de-fund” the police department of Minneapolis, maybe it’s also time to “de-fund” the K-12 sector of what passes for public education in Minnesota. And once again, Minnesota is far from alone in needing this sort of housecleaning.
The idea is to fund parents instead. Let state legislatures decide the going rate for the education of a K-12-aged child, and then let the parents decide where that child should be educated and how that money should be spent. It’s called school choice.
A radical idea? No doubt. But this is a radical idea that will directly empower parents, which is something that defunding the police will not do.
Will some parents abuse their power and misuse the money? No doubt. Will the result be a plethora of schools grounded in religious denominations? Perhaps.
Defenders of the status quo tout the virtues of a public education with uniform goals. Once upon a time, those virtues were real and those goals were defensible, not to mention uniformly agreed upon. But today?
Public education has long been a target of the left and its “long march through the institutions.” That march began in the 1960s. It has continued without serious challenge—and with parental acquiescence—since then. Such a challenge is long overdue.
There was a time when our public schools were bastions of unabashed Americanism, thorough civic education, and a vague Protestantism; today they are transmission belts for a political agenda that features such “isms” as multiculturalism, environmentalism, secularism, and anti-Americanism.
Spoken like a true crank? I don’t think so. When I was a young community college teacher, I thought my job was to do warts-and-all history. Over time, I became aware that my students were pretty well versed on the warts but not much else.
So, my focus shifted accordingly. Yes, our founders were white, male, and flawed. Many were also wealthy slave owners. But they gave us a creed and a constitution of ultimate benefit to all. Our true founding was 1776, not 1619, as the New York Times now insists. To be sure, our national birth came with a serious defect, but it also offered great promise.
Speaking of bad apples, a country whose students have become convinced is rotten at its core cannot be defended. More than that, a country that is rotten at its core does not deserve to be defended.
That country is not the United States of America—at least not yet. But a troubling number of its young clearly believe otherwise. Therefore, they also believe that it must be fundamentally transformed, if not destroyed.
What to do? Ceasing to fund public education in the way that we have always funded it might be a good place to start. Such a reform would challenge both the consequences of the “long march” and the power of public-school teacher’s unions. In any case, it’s certainly far, far better than copying another police reform, namely outfitting teachers with body cams to monitor taxpayer-funded class content or taxpayer-funded non-teaching.
The best bet for a good society is strong families. And parental control of education is evidence of strong families at work. After all, who is more invested in and concerned about a child’s success and well-being than the child’s parents?
When parents are kept at a distance, problems can arise. Two come immediately to mind. The young might simply be passed along without being educated at all. Or the education that they do receive might lead them to think that they should take to the streets to wreak destruction. Wait a minute. That’s already happening. And the immediate answer of one-party city government in Minneapolis is to defund the police? Maybe it’s high time that we start thinking about defunding something else instead.
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