I wrote Part 1 of this discussion about three years ago. Since then I have homeschooled for eighteen months and thought about the education of my children even more.
Please go back and read Part 1 first so I don't have to repeat the material here.
Basically I concluded that we do not have the economic freedom to send our children to the schools of our choice and that vouchers would be a solution. Not the only solution, but one way of leveling the economic playing field.
I have changed my stance somewhat on that conclusion. Vouchers would entail government control over the funds that they provide. Charter schools demonstrate this oh-so-well. While they do provide alternate educational methods, as soon as public taxpayer money is used for education, the public opinion controls how and where the money is spent, public regulation forces issues like special education, traffic safety, busing, holidays, teacher salary... in short the same insane bureaucratic bloatware that plagues the current public school system.
As I raise my family, I think I have become almost more libertarian. The amount of waste in government systems boggles my mind. Having worked for the public schools and the University I can attest to the fact that unwise spending and useless regulations account for a good portion of the financial problems in public schools.
As a homeschooler, I have discovered that it actually does NOT take $9,000 per year to educate a child. It may take that much to pay for new "safer" playground equipment, new math manipulatives to replace the ones last year that are not as "cool," a teacher to do crowd control at lunch and recess, a state-of-the-art computer lab, etc. but oddly it doesn't cost nearly that much to educate my children at home. While I know that isn't possible for every family (I fully acknowledge that I am blessed to be able to do it, and we do take a financial hit to continue to have me stay at home) I do heartily wish that I could choose to keep the tax dollars that are supposed to be going toward my childrens' educations and actually put them toward my childrens' educations.
Having said that, no, I really don't want to receive public money to buy homeschool supplies. Once the money filters through the machine of public bureaucracy, the price is too high to get it back. The price I would pay is in freedom: the freedom to school when and where and how much I want. The freedom to teach my children without anyone breathing down my neck or micromanaging how I do it. The freedom to use the books I choose and not the ones I don't.
Some would shudder at the lack of accountability. Yet as a certified teacher myself, who's to say I cannot do as excellent of a job teaching my kids as the next certified teacher? Would it not follow that I care more about investing in the future of my own children and would therefor do a better job teaching them than some random hireling? Yes, I think that is the case. (Not that public schoolteachers don't care and try hard. They do. I did. But I also had 45 students in one class. I did my best, but not as well as I do now.)
To answer my own question, then, do I have a choice? Yes, indeed I do. I choose to school my kids at home, scraping to pay for the curriculum I choose to use. I choose NOT to use public money, choosing instead to maintain my autonomy as my forebears did. Can I choose then not to pay for a public education I am not using? Nope, sorry. That's where my freedom ends. In order to exercise my freedom to choose, I must in essence pay twice for each child's education.
I intend this post less as a rant than as a hard look at the idea of economic freedom that we so value in this country. With the health care reform debates going on even now, the issues touch on the same logic. To choose to buy into a governmental health care system means we need to be willing to USE a governmental health care system and if it is as full of bloatware as other current public systems, I'm not sure I want to do that. Stories of European and Canadian health care users who report understaffed public clinics, long waiting lists and exorbitant private care prices make me shudder to think of that coming here. But that would be the price of free care for all. Mediocre care for all.
Fewer choices and even fewer freedoms exist for those of us not quite in the income bracket that gives the many governmental benefits, but not quite in the bracket that doesn't care about paying out the nose for private schools or private health care. We're the ones who pay dearly for those freedoms.