It's Time to Abolish the Publish Schools, Part 1

The public “government” school system has become a nightmare of its own making. For decades, its proponents have done everything they can to keep the public “government” education machine going. Moreover, they have claimed that, without public schools, American children would not be educated and that parents are not fit to decide how their children should be educated. They often say that public schools are needed because children need to be socialized at a very young age and that the state – not the parents or any legal guardian – has a vested interest in the learning development of our children.

The Left, unsurprisingly enough, has often complained that the public “government” schools never receive adequate amounts of funding in order for their schools to work. Obviously, that argument is always the same: we need more money for the schools so that they can do the job of “educating” our very young. Unfortunately, today’s generation of Americans are unaware of the fact that the modern welfare state has polluted their minds with the belief that only the public schools can successfully provide a real learning environment for our children – one that parents are just unqualified to furnish for them. Therefore, this has become the very success story of liberal collectivists who erroneously believe that the state knows the child better than the parents. Because liberals cannot and will never be able to successfully justify the welfare statism that they brought to this country decades ago, they cannot and will never see the damage that their socialism – as well as their love for it – has done to America. In effect, they are, without question, largely and morally responsible for bringing about their brand of statism not only to our country, but also to the education system as well.

The Right, on the other hand, sees things somewhat differently. While many conservative collectivists, historically speaking, have correctly noted that the public schools are a disaster waiting to happen, they too have opined that the public schools must continue to exist, despite their view that the schools can be “reformed” via injections of what they erroneously view as “free-market” or “market-oriented” approaches in order to make the schools work. Somehow the idea of using the power of the state to strong-arm families, educators, and local schools into accepting aberrant and distorted – not to mention state-sanctioned (a.k.a. state-imposed) – socialistic machinations under the rubric of “free enterprise” is very appealing to conservatives, who push and call for them at every turn.

Because of these simple truths, it is morally and economically imperative that the government control and monopoly of our education system is dismantled immediately. It is the obligation and moral duty of the citizens of our nation to take the education monopolists and their collectivistic sycophants to task for their immoral and unconstitutional control of the education establishment. That goes for every man, woman, and child who can find it within themselves to oppose the union of education and state.

Furthermore, because of the pervasive evils of a top-down, bureaucratic, and one-size-fits-all public “government” education system that functions at the local, state, and federal levels, local parents, educators, and schools find that they are unable to retain control of their own schools, thanks to the political clout of big government politicians, teacher unions, and their collectivistic union lackeys.

School vouchers

While a number of conservatives have ardently called for disenfranchised and disillusioned parents to remove their children from Godless schools that refuse to allow school prayer, post copies of the Ten Commandments on the walls of the classrooms, and teach creationism over evolution, end political correctness on school grounds, and many other forms of socialistic measures, increasing numbers of them are ecstatically endorsing and even touting school vouchers for religious parents to do just that. Their contention is that, because God has been “taken out of the classroom” (largely thanks to state and federal education bureaucrats, unions, and many Supreme Court decisions that were handed down over the years), the schools can neither be trusted nor relied upon to inculcate school children with religious principles and moral values that ought to be a natural part of their education.

What’s even more distressing is that these conservatives, including some libertarians, are deceiving parents, students, and the public at large regarding these voucher claims by promoting them in the form of “school choice” – that is, a disguised euphemism for reform of the schools simply designed to broaden the choices for parents to educate their kids with the help of the state. This reform is intended to bring schools on a path to a separation of education and state – “intended” being the operative word here.

A tax-funded voucher system seems like a good idea on the surface, except that it’s not. Why? Because there are quite a number of problems with the money.

First, as almost everyone knows, vouchers are just a welfare-state scam that basically snookers parents into accepting public “government” money to send their children to a public or private school with the permission and choosing of the state. Parents who take the money will find that the state has already attached strings to the funds. It goes without saying that the state will be making demands in return. That means that the parents and their children will ultimately end up as permanent education wards of the state. Once the private schools begin accepting public money, they will no longer answer to parents but rather to the government. In the end, the private schools eventually become carbon copies of their public counterparts, resulting in their imminent oblivion.

Second, once private schools take the money, they will find themselves under the regulatory gun of the state. Let’s not kid ourselves. As soon as they receive the funds, the schools will no longer be responsive to the efficiency of the free market. In a real free market, private schools would have to respond to market competition in order to remain in business. Those schools that do accept the handouts won’t have to worry about the incentive to pare down costs if they are dramatically reduced or eliminated.

Third, private schools will eventually be priced out of the marketplace if the voucher system becomes mainstreamed. There are only two ways that this can occur. If the schools refuse to accept vouchers, then the families who are desperate to have the money will patronize the voucher-funded schools, leading to the closing of the non-voucher-funded schools. Moreover, if schools are coerced into embracing the funding, then they may respond by opting to go out of business in lieu of allowing themselves to be under the federal microscope.

Finally, the idea that parents need vouchers to get their children out of the ailing public schools and place them in their better-performing private counterparts perpetuates the myth that parents do not already have “school choice” for their children. On the contrary, parents certainly do have that choice today. That choice is no different than the other choices they have in their lives, choices like food, entertainment, cars, clothes, etc. When voucher proponents talk about “school choice,” what they’re really saying is that parents have no choice of where they can take other people’s money and spend it for their children’s education.

Another way of looking at the deleterious effects that vouchers bring to families and children is that the program is equivalent to food stamps for schools. Voucher advocates often say that they don’t support food stamps or any other government assistance programs such as public “government” housing and public “government” medical-care programs.

There’s more to this problem than meets the eye. Some parents who apply for the voucher programs to send their children to nontraditional private schools will immediately discover that they are not eligible for the state-funded program. States will never give their approval to remit the funds to schools that admit only a certain group of students (customers) of race, gender, and class. Schools that want to be acceptable will have to satisfy academic, curriculum, and textbook standards established by the state. The teachers will have to satisfy those requirements as well. If any educator is found not to possess the certifications as well as the proper degrees from state-run and state-approved colleges, they will not be hired, considering the school wants to be put on the list of government-approved schools.

Parents who choose to homeschool their children will not be allowed to receive the vouchers, considering that the state will discriminate homeschooling parents on the grounds that they do not possess a state-recognized degree from the state’s own approved college or university, possess neither the experience nor the certification to educate their children, and are not able to obtain the funds to cover the costs for books, videos, software, and supplies that may have been paid for by the state’s voucher program.

Other parents who choose to enroll their children in a religious or parochial school quickly learn that they are denied access to the funds, because a majority of the religious schools, in all honesty, are extremely discriminatory. These schools employ instructors and admit only pupils who adhere to their own particular religion. If a religious institution refuses to compromise its principles and values, they will be denied the vouchers. As human nature would tell us, the temptation to succumb to government demands would be too great. After all, as with all federal regulations, the demands would be meager in the beginning, but eventually they would grow to become terribly invasive.

If there’s one group that’s mostly overlooked, especially when “school choice” does not fit in the educational scheme of things, it’s the taxpayers. They are forced to subsidize others who have the privilege of “school choice.” Taxpayers may not realize this, but they are the sole source of funding used to disperse public “government” vouchers, so that parents can employ the money to furnish each school-age child an education under the rubric of “school choice.” Childless married couples – that is, those who choose not to have children – already spend thousands of their tax dollars to educate the children of married couples, yet they will now be forced to drop more money, whether they like it or not. While communities at the local level are not forced to pay taxes to feed and provide clothing for the children residing in them, they are, however, forced to subsidize their education.

Not all vouchers are a bad idea though. Currently, many private voucher programs do exist. If all school taxes were dramatically slashed, or preferably repealed, then the money used to pay for the current school system would be available, giving parents a real school choice. This would immediately launch a free-market education system, in which there would be more funding for better schools that respond to consumer demand and respect consumer sovereignty. Moreover, there would be more privately-funded voucher programs, giving parents (consumers) more choices and more options to spend their private education dollars as they see fit. If a separation of education and state were enacted, the free market would immediately take over the education system, allowing parents and their children to patronize schools that consistently meet their needs. Even if such a separation was never allowed and school taxes were cut on a drastic scale, it would require the public “government” schools to compete with the private-voucher-funded private schools, forcing the government schools to either clean up their act or get out of the way.

Tuition tax credits

Another government machination that allegedly fixes the problems plaguing our education system is the tuition tax credit. It is essentially designed to alleviate the school tax burden for parents by allowing them to reduce their school or income tax liability dollar-for-dollar just so that they can enroll their children in private schools.

It is often claimed that the one advantage that tuition tax credits have over public “government” vouchers is that they do provide tax relief for parents who, if given the credits, would keep more of their money from which would most likely be taken. That is absolutely true, as tuition tax credits, on the surface, seem like a better alternative to public vouchers anytime, any day of the week.

Another claim from tax credit proponents is that such credits are superior to the public voucher system because they result in less government control of the schools and less of a chance of uniting church (through religious schools) and state, due to their indirect nature and the unintended consequences that often follow.

Except there’s only one problem with this alternative: they lead to greater control and regulation of the private school industry. To believe otherwise is a pipe dream. Such a measure would open the door to more perverse conditions, such as cash subsidies to parents with children by childless couples, private schools complying with federal tax audits, the denial of parental authority over how the schools spend the money per pupil, and so forth.

With all the problems associated with the public “government” schools, isn’t it time to pull the plug on them and put an end to the pervasive evil that is the bedrock of the public “government” school monopoly?

© 2006 by Todd Andrew Barnett. All Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint any portion of or the entire article is hereby granted, provided that the author’s name and credentials are included.