Sometime in the not too distant future, the government of a well-respected country wanted to do something to help the people who could not get to work on time due to increasing traffic and deteriorating roads. The new government leader wanted to create equity and honor the wishes of the people to have equal opportunity to get to work on time, so he nominated a new transportation secretary with bold ideas. This person believed that the way to bring equity would be to allow anyone who drove these roads daily to use their tax dollars earmarked for transportation infrastructure to travel on the bright, shiny, clean and uncrowded toll roads. Special vouchers would be distributed allowing anyone, regardless of income, to use whatever road they wanted, without paying.
Of course, there were rules. If your vehicle failed to pass the special "toll road inspection" or if it was more than 10 years old, you could not participate in this voucher program and you had to stay on the public state and federal highways. At first, many people thought this would be equitable, because certainly these roads would now be less congested. This was correct, at least in the start. The traffic moved along at generally good speeds on both types of roads. If anything, the toll roads now seemed to have the congestion that used to plague the public highways.
Things seemed to run very smoothly, until the first major snowstorm. You see, more than half of the public tax money earmarked for supporting maintenance and repair of public roads now was diverted to the toll roads via the vouchers. Therefore, during the snowstorm, while the toll roads were clear and safe to drive, the public highways lacked the funding, manpower, and the equipment needed to clear the roads. Additionally, because far less people drove on the public roads, the snow accumulated much faster and made driving conditions extremely hazardous.
Over time, after many more snowstorms, windstorms, and hailstorms, the public roads began to erode: potholes were everywhere! Yet there was not enough funding to repair the damage that had been done. The people who had no choice but to drive on the public roads cried out that something must be done to improve and care for the public roads. No one seemed to hear or acknowledge their cry for help. Even people who lived in areas where toll roads were not available were impacted. They had no need for vouchers to drive on toll roads; however, they still had public state highways to drive on. Unfortunately, the funding for these roads dried up as well.
Meanwhile, those fortunate enough to be able to qualify for vouchers to drive on the toll roads had their own point of contention. They were promised bright, shiny, clean and uncrowded roadways. The truth is that they did start out that way, but as more and more of the general public learned of this choice, and began to use the toll ways instead of the public state and federal highways, the roads became less shiny and new. The traffic became worse than on the public roads, because they were not designed for high levels of traffic. Raising the toll rates to travel on the roads was within the rights of the toll road owners, so they did this in order to provide more funding for maintenance and to extend the roads into new areas where profits could be made. This resulted in more money being taken from the public state and federal highways because of the vouchers.
Ask yourself this: Was the identified problem corrected? Who profited and benefited in this parable? Is there equity?
If you rob Peter to pay Paul, you can always depend on the support of Paul, and you can always count on the support of the people who profited from the work done for Paul.
Nancy White has been a member of the Colorado ASCD Board of Directors since October, 2013. She is a 21st Century Learning & Innovation Specialist at Academy District 20 in Colorado Springs, helping teachers design learning that sticks and that learners love. To read more of Nancy's work, visit her blog, "Innovations in Education."
This article originally appeared on EdCircuit on Feb. 18, 2016
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