Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Do We Really Have A Choice of Education - Part 2

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.


  1. I know that New Zealand subsidises home education to the tune of about NZ$700 a year -- not much, but it helps many families purchase the materials they need.

    COnsidering the $ we save the government by keeping them out of school, I think it's fair that some of the public funds are returned to us. (But I'm writing from an Australian perspective -- we're more socialist here.)

  2. Amen and Amen!

    We've been aghast at the waste of government money in our schools, even more aghast at the waste of privately raised money through fundraising.

    On the healthcare front, I'm Canadian and I can tell you firsthand just how mediocre it is. You don't want "free" healthcare. If anything you want it subsidized so that when something is beyond your means you can either qualify or go on the sliding scale.

    What you probably haven't heard about public health care is that it means doctors often have a ceiling on what they can earn. That's considerably less incentive for students to enter medicine, and all the really good doctors migrate to where the top dollar can be had. Usually into the private sector - if your government allows that...

  3. Great article. I agree, fully! The first issue, is that parents somehow don't "qualify" to be good enough to if we need credentials to qualify. In fact, in many states such as CA, there is much effort being put forth to create legislation that will require just that!

    I think it comes down to world view. As a Christian, I believe God has fully equipped my husband and I to be all that our children need for education. Between our home and church, our children learn exactly what they should be learning-we don't need the world's help at corrupting their minds and hearts..they'll be out there soon enough!

    As far as funding goes, it's ridiculous how much money, time and energy is given in public schools..and districts are constantly complaining for more, rather than being held accountable for their waste-just like gov't. There is a mistaken idea that money is needed for good education. I operate effectively as a mother to nearly 6, on one income, because I'm on a budget! I must! I don't spend hoards of money on supplies, and curriculum because I think it's completely frivolous for proper education.

    You are right that the price paid back to us for educating at home, could be too high. I think we should have a pre-tax credit on all income levels. People making $20k per year make the same sacrifice in raising and educating their children than people who make $100k per year on one income. I don't want the money filtered through the system either..heaven's no thank you! By the time it was spent on foreign debt repayment, bailouts, and unwanted universal healthcare, we'd get a mere fraction of our dollar back, after the irresponsible gov't uses it as they see fit.

    I'd rather have the money off the top-thus relieving the physical burden for our "impoverished public schools" and the teachers, and allowing parents to use their own hard-earned money for a sacrifice they believe in.

    I've yet to see any real-life parent (and this is a HUGE stereotype by the media-especially recent focuses on unschooling) keeping their children home because they are lazy! Lazy parents choose to pawn their kids off to the system so they can do or pursue or be lazy in ways they wish during the day. Parents that keep their children home to educate them are face to face with their innocence, desire to learn, and constant need for education, love, guidance, and discipline..every day! It's the full-time loving and self-sacrificial choice-not some route of laziness it's often mistaken for. It's also the choice that hits parents twice! Once for public education taxes we don't utilize, and then to purchase supplies and materials for our own children.

    I agree with the PP, Girl, about healthcare. We certainly do not want "free healthcare" here. Nor can we afford it. What we need is deregulation and tort reform, so Doctors can begin to practice medicine and patient care once again, rather than to learn the best way to navigate the red tape of BS gov't regulations and frivolous law suits.

    We HAVE free and low cost healthcare for the needy..and we have since FDR. It's bankrupted us as a nation, and caused an entitlement society..what was ONCE taken care of by our extremely charitable nation (as intended by the Founders) is now something people have the mistaken notion our Constitution provides for as a right!

  4. You make some great points and raise terrific questions. I agree that the government should not pay for our home school supplies. It just creates a tangled web. There are MANY talented parents who choose to teach their children at home and do so successfully.