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District 3, Pate: Market system would offer better school choices

Posted: Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Vicki Pate knows some of her views on education are a little outside the norm. But, she said, all innovative ideas start that way.

"I realize that the things I'm saying are things that probably never have been said before, certainly not by somebody running for school board," she said.

"But I feel my message needs to be said, and I suspect that over the next 50 years, more and more people will agree."

Pate is running for a seat on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education and faces incumbent Debra Mullins for the two-year term representing District 3-Nikiski.

"The change that I am looking for is to separate our educational system from government influence," she said. "I would like to replace government schools with public learning establishments that are privately owned.

"We call McDonald's or Para-disos public eating establishments, but they're not run by the board of hamburgers. I think if we let the market system run education we'll have greater variety and more schools closer to our homes. Parents will be able to choose the type of education they want for their kids."

Pate came to Alaska with her husband and three stepsons in 1981. The couple also had a daughter in 1984. Pate's stepsons went to public schools, while she and her husband home schooled their daughter before sending her to a private, Christian high school.

"If I knew what I know now, I probably would have home schooled the boys too," she said. "Public school is by definition like a size 9 shoe. If you have a size 12 kid or a size 6 kid, it's not a good match. They would have been better served by us home schooling them."

It's not that the public education system is a failure, she said. The problem is that it doesn't allow for variety or parent input.

"You have things like No Child Left Behind coming down from on high, and any other number of programs, but what you end up with is a system telling kids one thing and parents telling them something else," she said. "When you have that conflict, kids don't know what to do, and they end up being the ones who basically believe in nothing."

Pate said that about 100 cities in the country now have private foundations that provide scholarships for children in kindergarten through eighth grade from low-income families to attend private schools of their choice.

"It allows poor families to choose the education they want for their kids, which is something the well-to-do have always had," she said.

She said she would like to see a similar foundation on the peninsula.

In the meantime, however, she said she plans to run for school board as many times as she can in the coming years to get her message out.

"People who do home school and who educate privately have never had a voice to vote for," she said.

"If what you want to do is to separate schools from government, vote for me," she said. "If you don't want to do that, please don't vote for me. It will just encourage me."



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