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The Bottom Line Transform Education from the Ground Up


“[L]et’s focus on what really matters. To my mind, that is, every student, every kid.” So states Stand Together CEO, Brian Hooks, in the “Yes Every Kid” initiative. “Yes Every Kid” is a social-welfare organization funded by The Koch Network. Koch runs the program under the umbrella of Stand Together, a non-profit organization also funded by Koch that works on anti-poverty efforts.

The Koch brothers are tied to conservative political causes which to some places them outside the mainstream when it comes to K-12 education policies—especially the belief in smaller government and limiting the overreach of the Department of Education. However, the main focus of “Yes Every Kid” is toward “mov[ing] away from the ‘us versus them’ framing in K-12.”

This aligns with what Don Nielsen, author of Every School, sees as that goal of public schools: “The most important institution in our free democratic society is our public school system. Fixing our schools, so they work for all students, is not only the right thing to do for our children, it is the right thing to do for our Country.”

At the center of the problem with the current approach to public schools is that a centralized government has great difficulty fixing localized problems. As Jay W. Richards, Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute, points out in his book, Money, Greed, And God, “The problem isn’t that government workers are stupid or uncaring. The problem is all about information and incentives. A centralized government knows less about individual problems than does practically anyone closer to the problem.” He continues, “replacing a family or a neighborhood or a local church with a federal program for helping the down-and-out is like trying to have an official in the Department of Commerce guess how much I should pay, right now, for a new pair of size-9 Asics running shoes.”

A more bureaucratic centralized institution faces a guessing game—namely the need to predict what is best for children in a particular local community.  The local philanthropist is in a much better position to understand his particular community and the interests of those within the community.

To this point Richards adds that “all of these organizations have one thing in common: they define their mission in part by what the government does or doesn’t provide. If the government weren’t occupying most of the charitable ecosystem, charities would be profoundly different.”

Well-funded charities such as “Yes Every Kid” are better at dealing with specific instances of struggle within communities—big government tends to run amuck when it overreaches. Although “Yes Every Kid” is a national movement, it does not, like the federal government, employ a top-down dictum with an innumerable regulations that tend to propagate mediocrity and depress innovation. Rather, they are “rethink[ing] education from the ground up” and understand that if change comes down “from above, it won’t be change in the right direction.” Which is why the approach of “Yes Every Kid” is to “join, support and build coalitions in order to advance a new conversation by bringing together voices from those who agree and disagree to strike new common ground and bold visions to revolutionize the K-12 education experience.” This is the type of approach we can all rally behind!

Bailey Takacs

Program Coordinator, American Center for Transforming Education
Bailey Takacs serves as program coordinator at Discovery Institutes' American Center for Transforming Education. With a passion and drive for reforming education, Bailey’s experience includes managing campaigns for elected officials as well administrative roles with elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels of government. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Government from Pacific Lutheran University.