Free to innovate

Recently I tried to get healthier milk options into my daughter’s school cafeteria. In dealing with the nutrition department I was told that although my research was sound and they empathized with my concerns, they were unable to make any changes because those options are mandated by the federal government. In other words, in order to make a change in my daughter’s school cafeteria here in St. Paul, I would need to get legislation changed in Washington, D.C.

If every little modification has to go all the way to the federal government, how can schools possibly be responsive or innovative? Who cares more about your children than you? We need to restore local control to our schools. Local control means flexibility and it means being able to tailor one’s school to one’s hometown. One-size-fits-all, top-down controlled schools aren’t dynamic and they leave parents with little say over their kids’ educations. 

Despite these challenges, Minnesota is clearly doing something right. For 8 years running Minnesota has had the highest ACT scores in the nation. We also have the 2nd highest level of educated citizens. But our deal with Washington, D.C. has not been a good one: Minnesota receives back only $0.50 of every dollar it sends to the federal government (by comparison, Washington, DC receives $2.41). Worse, we have to jump through hoops to get back our half, sometimes following mandates like the one I mentioned above and other times mandates that actually cost us. It’s time that we refuse both kinds and insist on a return to local control of our schools.