School Choice: An offensive name

the-liberator-logoEnd The Education Plantation. A provocative name. An offensive name to some.

But what’s being done to our children by our public education system is the real offense. The poorer you are, the worse it is. And, sadly, far too many of these children have black and brown skin.

I named our organization End the Education Plantation because that’s what I want to do.

The slavery analogy is intentional. And appropriate. Because we’re fighting a modern form of slavery. Not just figuratively, but literally.

We want to give every parent in America an opportunity choose the school their children attend by putting them in charge of the money spent to educate their children.

If you boil the arguments against school choice down to their most basic, you arrive at the plantation: “We can’t allow parents the freedom to choose because if we did too many would run off the plantation by choosing the ‘wrong’ school.” Taking away someone else’s choices and imposing your will on them is the definition of slavery.

The parallels between the anti-slavery abolition movement and the school choice movement are striking. The abolitionists had the Underground Railroad that helped people held as slaves reach freedom. A group of dedicated, committed folks risked a lot to save these poor souls, one at a time.

The school choice movement has our equivalent of the Underground Railroad, a cadre of dedicated, loving people who fight tirelessly to free children from schools that destroy their lives before they even have a chance to get started.

Some fight for school choice on a one-by-one basis, saving individuals through scholarships, donations, and mentoring. Some fight the fight on the political front, forcing a resistant government monopoly to provide some degree of freedom for this or that group.

Skirmishes are being won across the country. Yet the number of parents with children in public schools who are truly free to choose the schools their kids attend is heartbreakingly small — about one half of one percent.

Income determines quality

The fact remains that family income is the single biggest determinant of the quality of a student’s education in the public education system.

My role models are people from the abolition and civil rights movements. A primary guide and the creator of the original Liberator is anti-slavery fighter, William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison fought against the evils of physical slavery. We’re fighting educational slavery.

Although Garrison supported the Underground Railroad and any other means to free the slaves, he knew this was not enough. He knew that another front had to be fought: A full on, frontal assault on the evils of slavery and all who supported it.

The school choice movement demands the same. We don’t want to pull back on any of the efforts happening to expand school choice.

But we need to start a new front in this war. We need the courage to fight the final fight, to reach for freedom for all — not just the lucky few who make it along our Underground Railroad. For fans of The Lord of the Rings, we need to march to our battle for Mordor.

At one time Garrison made the mistake of being willing to accept freedom for some as a partial victory. He regretted that decision. Offering incremental freedom to a lucky few is no more acceptable today than it was in Garrison’s time.

I salute those working tirelessly for educational freedom. We don’t want to end these incremental efforts. But we can’t be satisfied with them, either.

We believe we have the strategy to achieve this goal.

We propose a federal law requiring states to fund parents, not school districts. We don’t want to dictate how the states implement this, just that they do it. And we would set a floor of at least 95 percent of the total per-pupil spending by each state or school district that would be controlled by parents.

This kind of legislation would get us almost immediately to the day when every parent has the opportunity to send their kids to a school offering them a quality education.

Giving parents control over the money spent to educate their children will turn parents into consumers in a competitive marketplace. That will force schools to treat parents and their kids as customers because they’ll be forced to compete for students. And that will force poor-performing schools to get better or go out of business.

Clock is ticking

But the clock is ticking loudly. We need to fire this thing up and to do that we need your support.

Ideally, we are rolling prior to the 2014 elections. We need to win this while President Obama is in office. Through the application of political pain, we can get the votes to pass this law.

We intend to use the moral issues involved to their full extent. And the moral issues are overwhelming. There are literally millions of heartbreaking stories out there. We will air them and force politicians to directly confront them.

Garrison used strong language to make his point and didn’t apologize for doing so. We do the same. If our language offends, so be it. What is happening to the children of this land is offensive. The damage done to their lives, before they even have a chance to live them, will not stand. The damage done to this great country as these children with poor educations grow and have children of their own will not stand. That the children and parents of this land are treated as literal slaves to the education plantation will not stand.

But this plan also has a tremendous “pull-thru” aspect too. I believe we can garner 90+% support from the poor and middle class for this law. It will put a tremendous amount of money under the control of parents, in some sort of state-regulated environment of course.

Give me the money

I’ve talked to working folks across the country. I explain what I’m trying to accomplish and ask them a simple question. “Do you think you could get a better education for your children if you controlled how/where the money was spent or would you prefer to stick with the present system?”

So far, 100 percent have said give me the money.

There are only 536 people on the entire planet who are keeping the children of this country slaves to the education establishment — 535 members of Congress and the President of the United States. Many of them are already on our side. For the rest, either realize you are on the wrong side of this issue and change your mind or face the political wrath of millions.

But we need your help to get this new battle front going. Please help spread the word. Email your friends. Send us money. The odds might seem small but all success begins with strategy and we have a great one.

The future of the country and millions of young lives depend on our success. Garrison and Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn’t accept defeat or partial solutions and neither will we. We will not let ourselves or the children of this country down.

Please help.

John Conlin

John Conlin is a self-employed management consultant who lives in Littleton, Colorado. He started End The Education Plantation because he’s seen first-hand the harm being caused by our nation’s schools and believes it’s time to do something about that. Join our email list for continuing updates. And get involved. We’re a grassroots organization.

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Who We Are

End the Education Plantation is a temporary nonprofit organization founded by John Conlin of Littleton, Colorado, because he’s seen first-hand the harm being caused by our nation’s schools. We are a grassroots organization with one and only one goal: Give every parent in America the opportunity to send their children to schools offering a quality education.

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