Monday, November 02, 2015

School choice provides a better future for our children

As a new school year is about to get underway, it’s time to recognize that there is a difference between publicly funded education and public schools. The first represents a commitment to educating our citizenry so that they can contribute to our society and the second is simply one way of delivering the product. It is also demonstrably the least effective means for doing so.

A better solution would be for the state governments to provide vouchers in the amount of that states’ per capital budget for education directly to the parents and let the parents select the service provider. That provider could also be home schooling if the parent so chose.

Certainly metrics would need to be established and the child tested annually to make sure that progress was made. However, that shouldn’t be a problem as we do it today.

The benefits of this approach would be many. Competition always lowers the costs of the product and increases its quality. It is time to move on to a better educational model.

The purpose of providing an educational system itself was to ultimately provide an educated populace, not to provide a public education system per se. At the time our public school system was established people thought that a public school system was the best way to accomplish the task. Today we know it isn’t.

In fact, of the alternatives available–public schools, charter schools, private schools (both religious and secular), and home schooling–our public schools produce the least qualified students and unfortunately, affect the greatest number of children.

Furthermore, education isn’t a federal issue. Until we begin to acknowledge, and we are, that an education is a commodity service just like any other product and that the best solution is the one that provides maximum choice we will continue to receive an inferior product.

What should be done is to eliminate the public school system as it exist today and replace it with a system that provides each parent a voucher in the amount of the per capital educational allowance provided by the state absent federal monies and let each parent chose the educational track they find best for their children. Certainly this should not be a mindless allocation of funds.

Like I mentioned above, metrics should be established that measure educational progress in all subjects up to a minimum level of competency and if a child failed to meet the standard then the parent would lose their discretionary choice. However, in the long run we would ultimately have a better educated, more diverse, and invested society than we have today.

One of the biggest arguments against school choice is the old separation of church and state nonsense.

Vouchers allow the parent to choose the school. The state does not fund the religious school. The state simply subsidizes the child with regard to basic education.

Also note: the religious schools, if they teach a religion class, have longer school days! State laws require all students to receive the same educational hours and achieve at or above the same standards. As a result, the state is receiving exactly what it paid for.

The parent makes added contributions to the private school (possibly through an associated church or by volunteering time) to cover any religion classes or alternative classes of their choosing (e.g. math/science/music/art/sports/etc.)

In fact, when some people are arguing against school choice, what they are arguing for is a prejudice against religion, which is forbidden by the 1st Amendment just as surely as is any prejudice for religion!

It is clearly illegal for government to have schools dedicated to non-minorities. It is just as illegal for government to have schools dedicated to the non-religious.

Freedom of religion, conscience and thought is every bit as fundamental to American justice as the freedom to be “equal under the law” without regard to race, gender, skin color, age or ethnic origin.

If something violates the 1st Amendment here, it is that current public education discriminates against religious beliefs! The purpose of the 1st Amendment is not to destroy religion, but to keep government’s hands off religion.

When the government actively squelches religious expression in supposedly free and public education, it is abusing the religious freedom of the individuals involved.

Government has a legitimate interest in ensuring an educated people. It may well set standards as to what is sufficient to satisfy those legitimate commercial and public concerns that drive that interest. But it does not follow that government must dominate education and actually run schools.

The justifiable interest in promoting an educated public can be achieved with standards, vouchers and other subsidies allocated using non-discriminatory standards.

The more I think about it as I write this, the more I become convinced that government must not be put in the place of running schools, as education is fundamentally the development of “thought”, “conscience” and “beliefs” …all issues the government is forbidden by the 1st Amendment from regulating!

Smaller government is not just a good idea, a government large enough to run schools is probably unconstitutional! Certainly, many of the founding fathers would think so, with the sole exception of military service schools. Since the constitution explicitly assigns the responsibility of the government to raise the military services and wage war as necessary, those services are chartered to train their officers and men.

Beyond the military, the post office and civil service, I see no reason why all states should be required to outsource their public education systems through vouchers or similar subsidies, preferably tied to the child directly, and not directly to the district in which he/she might live.

Historically, government was involved because population densities were too low to support competing school systems. That is long since become an obsolete argument.

I suppose somewhere there is a conservative who opposes school choice, but I’ll take a wild guess that they are few and far between. I certainly haven’t met any. Opposition to school choice is universally driven by liberals and the Democratic Party, which is owned by the teachers unions.

School choice in no way constitutes government endorsement of any religion. Parents are free to use their vouchers to send their children to any school they want, Catholic, Protestant, non-denominational, Muslim, atheist, or whatever.

The fact that Catholics in particular have an extensive K-12 educational system does not in any way suggest that the government is supporting Catholicism because parents decide to use their vouchers to send their children to Catholic schools.

I conclude from the liberal left’s opposition to school choice that they would prefer all children be compelled to attend rotten schools. In the long run, school choice provides a better future for our children and country.

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