Fix the broken K-12 education system through DIY projects

The VELA Education Fund helps parents and entrepreneurs find new ways

The old adage, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” implies another saying, “If it is broken, fix it.” The public education system has been broken for a long time. Why do we place our children in a cookie cutter education system where there is no real assessment of one’s true academic strengths and gifts? The schools seem to endorse “a jack of all trades” approach instead of “a master of one” as proof of academic accomplishment.

Michaelangelo was considered a genius because he was gifted in art. If he were to go through today’s K-12 education system, would his grades reflect his genius? Art, after all, is not part of the core curriculum. There seems to be no interest from the leaders in public education to create an educational path that uncovers the talents each student has. And the education system also devotes billions to advance an agenda that often doesn’t align with parents’ morals and values.

Many parents have decided that it may be time to take their children’s education into their own hands. They don’t have to do it on their own, thanks to efforts such as the VELA Education Fund.

VELA is a national nonprofit that describes itself as investing in “everyday entrepreneurs – students, parents, educators, and community leaders – who are envisioning new approaches that meet learners’ and families’ needs.” Lauren Grevel, VELA’s manager of programs, says it provices grants that do not require permission. In other words, parents have latitude to customize their children’s learning curriculum through homeschool co-ops, micro-schools, after-school programs and other activities. VELA trusts that the people it gives grants to know what is best for their communities.

VELA enables many ways to learn. One of the more unusual examples Grevel cites is a group that developed a math curriculum around surfing and skateboarding. Imagine the knowledge that students retain when they learn through an activity they get excited about — rather than from sitting in a classroom, listening to an uninspired lecture. For some students, the classroom setting works. But many students are labeled as having ADHD, or low intelligence, and are given prescription drugs simply because they do not learn the way the education system teaches.

Businesses use tests such as the Clifton StrengthsFinder, one of the best tests that measures a person’s mix of strengths. Since our schools do not take the time to assess students to find their strengths and create an individualized learning plan, parents could use these tools to create a customized a curriculum through a VELA grant.

VELA is a national fund and to date has awarded over 1,700 grants totaling $17 million dollars, serving over 6.2 million learners and families. Michigan families have been awarded 44 grants, totaling $403,500 and VELA has $400,000 more to distribute in the state.

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Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.