Public education is not free

It may shock you, but free public education is not a right.

Article X, Section 1 of the Hawaii State Constitution declares: “The State shall provide for the establishment, support and control of a statewide system of public schools free from sectarian control, a state university, public libraries and such other educational institutions as may be deemed desirable, including physical facilities therefor. There shall be no discrimination in public educational institutions because of race, religion, sex or ancestry…”

We have the right to equal access to public education, without religious indoctrination. But there’s no guarantee that it will be free.

Fast forward to 2009. Hawaii has 17 furlough days and the shortest school year (161 instruction days) in the nation. How can we keep our schools open?

Here’s my solution. We need to start charging public school students a $50 annual fee (that’s $5 a month) or a $100 annual fee (that’s $10 a month) to help pay for teachers’ salaries. No waivers or credits. The assessment would expire in two years, and if necessary could be extended every two years, adjusted for inflation.

During the 2009-2010 school year, 178,649 students were enrolled in public and charter schools (News Release, “Official 2009-10 Public and Charter School Enrollment” 9/8/09).

A $50 annual assessment would recover $8,932,450; or a $100 annual assessment would recover  $17,864,900 for public schools.

You might be thinking: We can’t make students and parents pay for public education!

Yes, we can. Regardless of whether they have children in public school (or children at all), everyone in Hawaii pays for public education. Taxpayers can’t afford more taxes (higher taxes aren’t the answer, anyway).

It’s not unreasonable or unprecedented. In 1925, students paid $1 for textbooks; and in 1933, students paid $10 to help fund teachers’ salaries (“Hawaii’s Forgotten History” by Rich Budnick).

Hawaii wasn’t a state then, but Statehood doesn’t guarantee free public education. In fact, we don’t value public education when it’s free.

What do you think? Do you take better care of something you pay for yourself, or something given to you? Is it unreasonable to ask public school students and their parents to pay a little more?

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2 Comments on “Public education is not free”

  1. gualetar Says:

    The subject is fully clear but why does the text lack clarity? But in general your blog is great.

  2. EDBOOKED Says:

    The novel, The Twilight’s Last Gleaming On Public Education, available via the publisher’s online bookstore, discusses differences between public and private education institutions. Just contact and search their bookstore by title. See if you can identify with the situations and characters presented. See if you agree with the proposed solutions. One difference is the requirement of non-refundable financial deposits before a student is enrolled in private schools. Parents become more attentive to their child’s education when they have a vested financial interest. Another problem that currently litters the public education landscape is the tendency for school administrators to substitute politically motivated policies and procedures for sound principles of education. These and other concerns are discussed in this fascinating and enlightening story. The author strives to leave the reader with a sense of time well invested in the reading of this story. I think you will agree.

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