Public education in Fairfax County, Va., and throughout much of the country is like an Italian restaurant in decline. 

It was once a neighborhood gem but has become confused and over-extended itself. You go to the establishment to eat spaghetti and meatballs. The chef thinks he knows what you’d prefer, so he brings you a burnt souffle. You never eat souffle and definitely didn’t want this one. The chef tells you that people need and love it and that the restaurant has stopped serving spaghetti. 

Suddenly, you hear screams because there are rats in the kitchen. On your way out the door, the chef winks and proudly claims his restaurant is the only one in town, so he’ll see you tomorrow.

Sound familiar? Parents hope that they are sending their children to school to get a classical education and learn essential life skills. Aside from the fundamentals, schools used to teach children how to tie shoes, tell time, write cursive, type, spell, and balance a checkbook. But no more. 

Now, teachers hand them a computer or iPad in elementary school and hope for the best. But hope is not a method. Instead of basic curriculum (spaghetti and meatballs, if you will), they teach children subjects far beyond the public school domain — like gender transitioning and racial power structures — and administer severely invasive surveys.

To make sure our children internalize and subscribe to this alternative curriculum, school boards in districts like Fairfax County Public Schools hire pricy equity consultants, regional equity specialists, individual school equity leaders, and recruit student equity officers for the hallway patrol. Even as student enrollment numbers declined from 190,000 to about 178,000 in the last couple of years, the budget in Fairfax County ($3.5 billion for 2024) increased substantially in part to pay the salaries and benefits of the extra administrators. Consequently, our property taxes also increase (up 8 percent this year).

Aside from the inappropriateness of it all, schools are failing to teach our children the basics. Test scores are low across the country. As I flip through my three sons’ public school computer slides because, of course, they don’t have physical textbooks anymore, I’m genuinely underwhelmed with the content of their courses. Even if students don’t learn the material, there are no worries because there’s equitable grading, where they all start with 50 percent on their assignments and tests.

If this isn’t bad enough, parents have the extra concern that public schools are actively trying to keep secrets from them about their own children. In Fairfax County, for example, teachers and administrators were forced to undergo training to keep students’ gender identities secret from their parents. All this secrecy prompted Sage’s Law in Virginia to affirm that parents are relevant and necessary in the upbringing of their children. 

Public education has gotten so out of control that we need to specifically legislate parental significance. Shamefully, but par for the course, the Virginia Senate killed the bill in committee in mid-February.

Many families are fleeing public education for these reasons. I attended a National School Choice Week event sponsored by EdReform Virginia and Independent Women’s Forum in January. There was standing room only for all the concerned parents who were desperately searching for alternatives to the indoctrination souffle that monopolizes public education.

Tax dollars must follow students. We need more options and choices. We, the parents, are begging for public education to return to the basic spaghetti and meatballs, the three “R’s” — and support parental involvement in our children’s lives. With the direction public education is headed, this will take time, if it is even possible at all.

In the interim, we need and deserve alternatives for the actual education of our future citizens. Public school indoctrination centers need competition; average families require educational savings accounts to make that happen.