Achieve Educational Freedom, Excellence and Harmony: Eliminate the Public Schools

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An objective
of LewRockwell.com is the promotion of different approaches to entrenched
problems. The following is a fictionalized scenario of what might
result if the public schools were eliminated. At the moment this
idea has a near-zero, if not zero, chance of happening, particularly
in those states whose constitutions now contain or have been construed
to contain provisions enshrining a u201Cpositive rightu201D to an education,
meaning a positive claim upon the labor and property of others,
a claim backed by the left's stock-in-trade, the coercive force
of the state. As resistance to ever-bigger government increases,
with a commensurate greater appreciation for individual liberty,
state constitutions will be re-examined, perhaps even amended. What
follows is not a prediction, only an exploration which in turn may
lead to better ideas. Finally, readers should bear in mind that
eliminating public schooling is not the elimination of education,
but rather the expansion of both freedom and education.

u201CAlright, George
Bailey, you’ve got your wish. The public schools were never invented.
Now stay calm, and don't fret about the many strange but freedom-affirming
phenomena you'll encounter as you stroll through a re-invigorated
Bedford Falls. Ready?u201D

Freedom
for Taxpayers
. Property taxpayers would no longer support a
system which even its supporters readily admit must be u201Cstructurally
improvedu201D [Statist-ese for, u201CGive us more moneyu201D]. Anything in constant
need of major improvements, not just routine adjustment, which produces
uneducated u201Cgraduatesu201D year after year (JayWalking anyone?),
for decades on end, is irredeemable, netting very poor investment
returns for taxpayers despite huge outlays. Since a sizable percentage
of local municipal budgets (usually well over 50%, typically with
supplemental u201Chelpu201D from state capitols) is dedicated to school
funding, the elimination of this line item will give meaningful
property tax relief.

Freedom
for Municipalities.
In the view of some — though at this point
in time not nearly enough — all education is intrinsically coupled
with morality, religion, and the reason of life itself. Necessarily
it cannot then lawfully be a proper function of government if we're
to be serious about individual liberty and separating church and
state. Governmental involvement in matters with religious overtones
and nuances including differing worldviews conflicts with the Establishment
Clause and state constitutional counterparts. Freed of school budgets,
cities and towns will confine themselves to matters within their
appropriate purview, generally subjects associated with public safety.

Freedom
for Parents
. Parents, relieved of a portion of their property
tax burden, will have greater disposable income with which they
may choose a private school appropriate for their child. Including
a home school. Today, families wanting alternative schooling for
their child/ren pay two tuitions, one to the chosen school directly,
another to the municipality to support the public schools.

Freedom
for Students
. Relief to students who simply do not want to spend
time in school for whatever reason (e.g., attitude, disinterest,
safety concerns). Relief from One-Size-Fits-All-ism. How these now-emancipated
students will choose to spend their newly-acquired time and freedom
will be left to them and their parents. For the student willing
to learn there will be choices galore as a thousand points of light
evolve following the demise of the public schools. Throughout their
history Americans have shown themselves to be both generous and
ingenious. From scholarships and tuition assistance (remember, property
tax relief will enable all citizens to spend their property tax
relief as they see fit, not as government sees fit) to an array
of different school types, all manner of ideas will come forth on
u201Cwhat to do with all those children.u201D To believe otherwise is to
concede that we have lost our way as well as our senses of freedom
and personal responsibility, and that only overseeing superintendent-esque
nannies can save us.

Repealing the
truancy and compulsory attendance laws frees students enabling but
also requiring them to become personally responsible for usefully
filling their time, simultaneously serving as a sobering means of
correcting immature attitudes via a dose of reality. Students and
parents will of necessity become discerning consumers of those educational
services which they desire. Consider this example. A parent/s believes
that comprehensive sex education, including awareness of all different
perspectives of human sexuality, is an important educational value
and that such information should be taught, at all grade levels,
to his/her/their child. These parents will choose, through free
association and without compulsion, schools accommodating their
expressed wishes. While acknowledging the rights of those parents
to choose as they may, other parents might avoid those choices,
preferring instead other educational values which for them may include
emphasis on math & science, fine arts, building trades, mechanics,
religious instruction, and so forth. They too will decide through
free association and without compulsion. Open choice aka freedom
aka liberty will enable each educational consumer to receive the
specific educational values which he/she/they seek/s without
the application of governmental force upon others who do not
share or want those educational choices.

Freedom
for Teachers
. To those who tsk-tsk the viable idea of doing
away with the public schools, they should know that eliminating
the public schools will not be the end of education. To the
contrary it will encourage genuine learning. In an atmosphere of
non-compulsion students who want to learn a chosen curriculum will
present themselves before teachers who want to teach. The discipline
problems of which teachers complain, including bullying, will largely
disappear. Teaching to willing students is a joy unto itself. Having
been a teacher in several venues — as seminar instructor on tax
law matters to other accounting, tax & legal professionals;
as host of numerous client seminars; as a homeschooling parent —
I am keenly aware of how fulfilling it is to teach receptive students.

Freedom
from Incompetence or Indifference
. Every large public school
system has its u201Crubber roomsu201D (search, u201Crubber rooms Stosselu201D) to
which incompetent, insubordinate, or dangerous teachers are assigned,
at full pay, while their cases for dismissal wend their way through
a labyrinth of union contract provisions. Why such rooms? Because
in the perverse world of public schools it is next to impossible
to get rid of bad teachers. Despite the overriding concern, stated
endlessly by politicians, bureaucrats and unions, of how much they
all want to u201Ceducate the children,u201D the game is really about protecting
government and its employees. Big government types, invariably u201Cledu201D
by Democrats and lapdog teachers' unions, are the biggest offenders.
Bureaucrats and union members have little concern whether children
learn or not; their principal worry is their own paycheck. And please,
let's not hear about the many fine, dedicated teachers, blah, blah,
blah. Even if true, these teachers are like students and parents:
trapped in the grip of the union–big government vise. The fine
intentions of these teachers will never loosen this grip; only an
adherence to limited government and a commitment to personal responsibility
will do that.

Freedom
for the Uninvolved
. Elimination corrects an inequity visited
upon those who have no current direct stake in the educational system.
Why should those who have no school-aged children be burdened with
the schooling costs of those who do? If you choose to raise children,
your obligations include clothing, sustenance, housing, and education.
Before setting out, the cost is to be counted. The decision to start
a family was yours, not that of your elderly, childless, or empty-nest
neighbors. It doesn't take a village to raise a family: it takes
a responsible mom and a responsible dad. As matters now stand your
neighbors, not exercising any influence in your family-raising decision,
are sent the bill for educating your children. All sorts of rationales
are given for continuing this unfairness. They reduce to one: We
benefit when all citizens are educated, or in bumper sticker language,
If you think public education is expensive, try ignorance. This
slogan's encapsulated arrogance assumes that people are incapable
of acting in their own best interests and would forever remain inert
until the Nanny State intercedes and affects a rescue, all for their
own good you must understand. Who else but leftists sell people
for such short money? If those who are inadequately prepared understand
that the principal difference between themselves and others who
have better prospects, employment, or social standing, is education,
common sense says that the former will know what to do.

Freedom
to Choose
. Each of us has different driving wants and needs;
we choose cars accordingly, based on factors which include cost,
safety, options, color, type (sedans, wagons, SUVs, minivans, pickups,
light & heavy duty trucks, et alia). Yet the choice of
schooling, also subject to a variety of factors, is far more determinative
of an individual's life direction than the choice of a car whose
life span is a matter of mere years. Freedom prevails when parents
and students, acting as consumers, make thoughtful choices for their
purposes among competing alternatives with funds that would otherwise
have been taken from them and wasted on a scheme that has failed
for decades. Even leftists endorse educational choice, but only
for themselves. When given the chance, leftists never choose
the public option. Obama’s daughters go to private schools, as did
Chelsea Clinton, as did Ted Kennedy’s kids. If this is leadership
by example, then the people too should be able to choose. u201CDo-as-I-say-not-as-I-do.u201D

What is more,
genuine educational choice (without a public option) will defuse,
at least in the school setting, many of society’s divisive issues,
issues brought into the public schools through raw political power
imposed on students, a captive, generally powerless audience. Without
forced public schooling there would be no more of the seemingly
endless battles on church-state separation and courses on human
sexuality. Gone and unmissed will be battles over religious songs
and symbols, whether religious days special to a particular faith
should be recognized as school holidays, refusals to recite the
Pledge of Allegiance, prayers at games or graduations. Mandatory
sex education and associated hot-button topics such as abortion
counseling, creationism, evolution, environ-ism, and countless other
subjects which at best are only marginally tangential to core academic
subjects, will be dealt with in a manner agreeable to students and
parents since they as consumers will be freely choosing schools
compatible with their wishes and expectations in these areas.

Tuition will
be reasonable as schools will no longer be forced by law to deal
with the selfish demands of public employee unions. Rather than
serving the interests of their employees and administrators, schools
will compete as every other successful consumer service competes,
by placing the customer, here parents and students, not employees,
as Priority #1. Sometime in the 1980s I heard Lane Kirkland, a then
important union leader, speak at an American Federation of Teachers
function. After his prepared remarks he took some questions one
of which touched on the declining academic achievements of students.
His blunt and forceful answer remains with me to this day. Paraphrased,
u201CWhen children become union members paying union dues, then I’ll
care about children’s education.u201D

Ending educational
compulsion will bring freedom and freedom will bring responsibility
and accountability. Schools in the post–public school
era will be burdened to please their customers, parents and students,
if they wish to succeed. Today, failing public schools are neither
punished nor eliminated; rather, in the eccentric world that defines
the u201Cpublic domain,u201D they’re rewarded by being allowed to continue,
often with increased funding, in order to u201Cself-correct.u201D Bailouts
may be new to Wall Street & Detroit carmakers, but bailouts
have long been a part of failed public school systems.

In a follow-up
article, the beneficial effects accruing to the American system
of federalism, which will naturally flow from the elimination of
public schooling, will be discussed.

April
26, 2010

Paul Galvin
[send him mail] conducts
his legal, tax and business advisory practice for businesses and
tax-exempt organizations in Springfield, Mass.

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