Commenting on Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Corey DeAngelis writes in the Washington Examiner, “Trump is absolutely right to call them government schools instead of public schools.”
DeAngelis is correct. Here’s why.
- “Public” schools are not open to everyone because students are barred based on zip codes.
- The schools are directly responsible to and directed by the government, whether at the local level (a district school board) or at the state level (through the state board of education).
- The schools are funded by federal, state, and local taxpayers.
This distinction is helpful because correctly characterizing these schools clarifies who should be held accountable.
Other forms of schooling, such as charter schools, religious schools, private schools, and certain ESA home schools can be referred to as independent schools. This is because they have more flexibility in operation as they are distinct community organizations that are accountable to the parents, children, teachers, and the organization they serve, rather than directly to the government.
It’s important to note that while independent schools possess a greater degree of autonomy in how they operate, they are still accountable to government. Government’s role resides not in how independent schools operate, but in setting standards they must meet in order to be considered schools.
One could make the case that the “public education system” has two dimensions: government schools and independent schools.
Governments and school officials need to understand that the primary responsibility for the education of a child rests with that child’s parents, not the school, not the district, and not the state or federal government. Classifying schools accurately provides clarity, for as DeAngelis notes, “instead of trying to hide the fact that the government runs our schools, defenders of the status quo should think about why the truth about our education system makes them feel so uncomfortable.”