I spoke today with Sen. Durbin’s office regarding my concerns over the legislative direction that his “school-to-prison” hearings might take, and was assured that federal mandates such as I feared are not in fact under consideration. Perhaps the recent introduction of other sweeping federal mandates has colored my perception.
At any rate, this is a good sign, and I hope that the Senator and his colleagues come away from their hearings recognizing that thoughtful administration of school discipline cannot be secured via mandates but rather must be achieved by giving educators the freedoms and incentives to serve the interests of children. When teachers’ and administrators’ professional futures depend on their success at keeping kids in school, helping them to realize their individual potentials, and preparing them for the challenges of adulthood, they will constantly search for new and better ways of achieving those ends. And they will find them. That is why parent-driven education markets outperform other types of school systems.
And the best thing the federal government can do to make such education markets universally accessible is to draw attention to state-level programs such as Florida’s and Pennsylvania’s education tax credits that are in the forefront of advancing them. Sometimes federal legislation just isn’t the right tool for the job.