OpinionTrending Commentary

Public Schools Go To War Against Merit


The fraying relationship between American parents and public schools was almost completely undone during the pandemic lockdowns. Public-sector unions made it abundantly clear that they worked in opposition to parental interests, and Zoom classrooms gave parents a firsthand look into what actually happened in their local schools. Many parents didn’t like what they witnessed, resulting in an explosion of interest in alternatives to traditional public education, including charters, homeschooling, and education freedom.

Now, that weakened relationship is effectively destroyed — not by the overwrought consequences of the pandemic, but by the pernicious effects of progressive ideology in its pursuit of “equity.” Revelations from the Commonwealth of Virginia show that several school districts withheld notifications of National Merit status from qualifying students. A National Merit designation carries tremendous advantages for students, especially when colleges consider admissions and financial aid. Withholding this honor is an act of hostility toward the affected students, who are thereby denied crucial opportunities when they matter the most.

Why would these Virginia school districts turn against their own students? Why would they actively seek to diminish the prospects of children entrusted to them by their parents? In a word: equity. As the Virginia-based mother, writer, and activist Asra Nomani conclusively demonstrated, school district officials became alarmed that Asian-American student populations were doing too well.

These students should be celebrated, recognized, and allowed to achieve according to their work and talent. Instead, the public education bureaucracy has decided to repress and diminish them through lies of omission. In fact, this bureaucracy did not just step away from its mission in the stewardship of our children. It went one step further and became an active enemy of students’ progress.

The Virginia school bureaucrats’ war on Asian-American students is an expression of many of the dangerous and damaging crosscurrents on the ideological left. They do not seek to address the overperformance of Asian-American students by raising other cohorts. The bureaucrats’ job, as they see it, is to level them, and the easiest way to achieve that is to cut down the ones who work, who learn, and who achieve.

The bad news is that the public education bureaucracy throughout the country is filled with people who believe exactly these things — and who are capable of exactly the same acts. Combatting the public education bureaucracy will require the efforts of concerned parents and watchful oversight by concerned officials. Additionally, it will require the media to ask a simple question: are schools doing all they can to help students, or are they holding back their progress? It shouldn’t be difficult to answer this question.

The good news is that we do know about this — and in Virginia, officeholders with real power to make real change, including Governor Glenn Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares, are engaging in uncovering the full scope of the wrongdoing. As they do, we have an obligation to support that engagement and demand real change as a result. Bureaucrats who harmed these children must face real, public, and enduring consequences. Permanent measures should be implemented through legislation, if necessary, to ensure that no public school bureaucrats can ever lie to children and parents again without facing penalties. Most importantly, schools must understand that it is no longer tenable to keep American children trapped in public education systems that will hate them and work to see them fail if they dare to learn, work, and succeed.

The relationship between American parents and public schools has been damaged — if not entirely broken — and the teachers’ unions bear most of the responsibility. However, this egregious incident, and so many similar ones across America, highlight the opportunity and need for real reform. It’s time for states to step up by modeling the recent triumphant legislative victories in Iowa, Arizona, and West Virginia and pass universal school choice. It’s time to allow parents across the country to exercise their right to give their children the education that best suits them — for the sake of the children and the American future they will build.

Brooke Rollins is President and CEO of the America First Policy Institute. She previously served as Assistant to President Donald J. Trump and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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One Comment

  1. Lowering the standards has never and will never work. It starts in elementary and middle schools. National test scores released this year show the largest math declines ever recorded for fourth and eighth grade students across the country, while reading levels dropped to the lowest level since 1992.
    The results are from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the “nation’s report card,” which tests hundreds of fourth and eighth graders and was administered for the first time since 2019. The results are considered the first nationally represented study of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on learning.

    The findings show math scores for eighth graders fell in nearly every state, with the average math score dropping eight points since 2019, from 282 to 274, out of a possible 500. The average math score for fourth graders fell by five points. In reading, both grades’ averages fell three points. Researchers say a 10-point decline or gain is equivalent to about a year of learning. These studies point to the pandemic’s impact on learning but we all know that if not for the lockdown’s “zoom learning” protocols parents would largely still be unaware of the horrific indoctrination and CRT and “gender fluidity” training their children were receiving. I say that this is the real reason for the dismal performance of our schools from college down to elementary school and all levels need to show a dramatic refocus on “Reading, Writing, and Math” and not political ideology.

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