THE PARENTS’ RIGHT TO CHOOSE WHO WILL EDUCATE THEIR CHILDREN
I appreciate the current focus on education in this nation. I feel I have received from the honors program at my alma mater one of the finest educations America's public schools have to offer. And I am grateful. Years have passed since then, but my endeavors to learn continue. However, some the most meaningful things I have learned since my days of formal education are things that I am convinced should have been introduced as early as elementary school. Yes, some of these are matters of religion, but many are matters of history and of science. I saw how things that were taught as unquestioned facts were presented later (in public college) more gingerly, as "our best explanation, given certain presuppositions." This higher level of honesty in education was liberating.
I have also come to appreciate those places of learning that are specifically sought after by parents who care so much about their children's formative years that they are willing to pay twice over for a private school education. There are some who want an alternative to the public schools no matter how much is spent on it. They should have the freedom to opt out of the system without penalty. Today, all are compelled to pay taxes that are spent on public schools. All are compelled to send their children to school. Far and away, most cannot afford to pay for their children's education a second time (private school tuition), and so resign themselves to the schools they have already paid for; public schools.
Presently, dollars flow from people to government to public schools. Some assume parental school selection involves direct payments from government to religious oriented schools. They invoke separation of church and state arguments. Voucher systems attempt to sidestep these arguments. But if our system is indeed rigged up so that anytime government touches money that religion, (among other things), has to stay out, then the key is to prevent government from touching the money.
One way to keep government from touching the money that goes from parents to the schools of their choice is to enact legislation that communicates the following:
"For every dollar one donates to the accredited school of one’s choice
that is one less dollar he must pay in taxes"
Such dollar-for-dollar tax relief for personal gifts to accredited schools would cause dollars to flow directly from the people to schools, public and private. This brings accountability closer to the people whose children and dollars are involved. It is understood that state regulation would limit such dollar-for-dollar tax relief to the portion of one's income that normally finds its way to government-run schools. Regulations would also require that each of these schools instruct a number of students commensurate with its revenue, that admissions policies be nondiscriminatory, that the poorest of children could attend on an equal footing, that students demonstrate acceptable progress in agreed upon educational standards, etc. So, the concept here is to move away from Government-administered schooling towards one that is simply Government-regulated.
The subject of school choice centers on themes of separation of school and state; not an absolute isolation but a healthy independence, much like the balance sought between religious establishments and government institutions. Those arguments employed to separate church and state naturally apply to a separation of school and state:
Those who indoctrinate must be separate from those who govern. Those who pursue truth must be not be swayed by those who pursue power.
Otherwise, political interests groom up future followers; a self-perpetuating system where truth takes a backseat to politics.
When School and State and not justly separate, innovations and modifications become decided by the courts and legislatures rather than by parents and educators, (kind of like the way the Spanish Inquisitors decided matters better left to congregations and their preachers).
Much of the great oppressions, ancient and recent, have centered on government attempts to control what is taught. Accounts of Inquisitors repressing innovators are often invoked to scorn religious thought. But these illustrate more accurately the efforts of civil authority to control educators; be they religious, scientific, political, artistic, or other. The First Amendment was specifically formulated to protect against such abuses.
If government had control over the flow of information in the adult world the way it controls that of our children, we would not say we live in a free country. If our government controlled 90% of the information outlets (newspaper, books, TV, radio, etc.) for the best part of each weekday, we would not say we were part of the free world. Please, let us consider how we can set our children, our own minds, free.
We hear of the value of free trade. "Whenever our products have a level playing field, they compete well; and America prospers," is the standard statement. Can we not offer a level playing field to privately funded schools to let them compete with state funded schools? Can we not let parents opt out of funding government selected schools and let them apply their earnings to the schools of their choice?
"Liberalism is the culmination of a development that goes back to the Hebrew prophets, the teachings of the pre-Socratic philosophers, and the Sermon on the Mount, from all of which there emerged a sense of the importance of human individuality, a liberation of the individual from complete subservience to the group, and a relaxation of the tight hold of custom, law, and authority. Throughout much of his history, man as an individual has been submerged in his group. His emancipation as an individual can be understood as a unique achievement of Western culture, perhaps its very hallmark. If this be so, then the emergence of liberalism was, in an important sense, inseparable from Western man's quest for freedom; for liberalism, in the broadest sense, seeks to protect the individual from arbitrary external restraints that prevent the full realization of his potentialities." ~Encyclopedia Britannica