Opinion: Bernie's education plans are bonkers
If we all took Sen. Bernie Sanders’ education plans with the requisite grain of salt necessary, there would be a severe salt shortage. But don’t worry, Sanders and friends would surely devise a salt-rationing regimen to supposedly solve the problem.
Sanders, like most good democratic socialists, believes the government should have a heavy-hand in the education arena, never mind the fact that the U.S. public school system is in tatters due to more government influence over the years. However, Sanders always assumes that more spending (and government control) will produce better results.
So, what would Sanders actually do if he somehow gained total control of the education system — a very frightening thought, in and of itself. Well, Sanders has already gone so far as to lay out his vision (nightmare) for America’s school system. Read at your own risk:
Sanders believes, “All public colleges and universities should be tuition free, and all current student loan debt should be canceled.” Sorry Sanders, there is no such thing as “something for nothing,” and canceling all current student loan debt would be totally unfair to those of us (including this author) who actually paid off our student loans.
Not to mention this would set a very dangerous precedent in tearing contractual obligations to shreds. If the sanctity of a contract is not upheld, our economic and social systems are in peril.
Sanders also thinks, “Colleges and universities should hire more faculty and increase their percentage of tenured and tenure-track professors.”
Is Sanders unaware that colleges and universities are already chock-full of unnecessary faculty and administrative positions that have zero impact on the quality of education and a huge impact on the bloated cost to attend these once-prestigious institutions of higher learning? According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), “From fall 1999 to fall 2017, the total number of faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions increased by 49% (from 1.0 to 1.5 million).”
And Sanders is dead wrong when it comes to tenured professors. The number of college professors with tenure has exploded over recent decades. Once again, according to NCES, the number of tenured professors in the United States doubled from 1976 to 2015. As of 2015, there were more than 500,000 tenured professors. Do we really need more?
Sanders also believes, “Students should not have to reapply for financial aid every year.” This is laughable on its face. Can you imagine the fraud and abuse that would engulf the already-abused student financial aid system if young adults could receive financial aid for years at a time, sans documentation and other mechanisms to reduce reckless lending?
When it comes to K-12 education, Sanders believes, “No Child Left Behind should be seriously overhauled. We need to reinvest in public schools and teachers and rebuild crumbling and unsafe schools.” As with most of Bernie’s ideas, the exact opposite approach should be taken. We should implement robust school choice by disinvesting in failing public schools. And why would we rebuild dilapidated schools when the internet and several other technologies allow students to learn outside the antiquated public school model?
Last but not least, Sanders advocates to “Increase Teacher Pay: Teachers are not being paid enough for the important role they play in our society.” As a former public school teacher, I can personally vouch for the audacity of this claim. Teachers are very well-compensated, considering they work about eight months out of the year, and are provided with extremely generous health care benefits and outrageous retirement plans.
In sum, Bernie Sanders’ plan to revive America’s deteriorating education system would do the exact opposite by reducing the scintilla of freedom that still exists in the education sphere. Hopefully, he will never be able to inflict his ludicrous plans upon America’s education system.
Chris Talgo is an editor at The Heartland Institute.