With the economy declining and prices of everything on the rise, people are giving money more of their attention. So, money back from education taxes sounds pretty good, but is it really? Is the new “school choice” movement really new? Are we forgetting anything as we line up for our portion of the money that could help us get fancier stuff for school or pay tuition? Why would people be against free money?
Attitudes about money and the worth of people’s work has shifted drastically in the last 20 years. The theology of prosperity consistently promotes that the key to success is getting paid more money for doing less work. Who doesn’t want that, right?
Even people seem to have dollar amounts attached to them. At the United Nations, the conversation regularly turns to mothers being “unpaid workers.” This international dialog assumes that mothers are nothing more than “workers.” To equate the mothers who teach and nurture all of society, who weave the very moral fabric of culture, to the secretary at a dental office or the human resources manager at a company, is insulting. Everyone knows that no one can take the place of a person’s mother in teaching and attachment.
With homeschooling and private schooling options becoming increasingly more popular, the conversation has shifted to protecting choice in education. Bills are being drafted all around the country, with big money backing the efforts that call for dishing state money back to parents if they choose to pursue other choices in education that aren’t the normal public school or charter school tracks, which are always publicly funded. These money redistribution efforts are usually referred to as “scholarships.”
At first glance, it seems like it’s a good idea to honor the choices of parents and give them back money that they aren’t using in traditional education ways to help them during hard times, but don’t be deceived. Things aren’t always what they seem, or how they are titled.
The Word “Choice”
Words can be so misleading. The word “choice” has historically caused confusion about policy, and it’s no different now. After fighting against and advocating for a voluminous amount of bills in my years doing family advocacy work, I’ve come to find out that most people don’t even read bills. It’s sad to say, but even the legislators don’t always read the bills. Before you call them lazy in your mind, recognize that there are way too many bills drafted to humanly remember and scrutinize all of them. This means that most legislators base their decisions about bills off of conversations, friendships, and titles. This is why the title of a bill can sometimes change multiple times during the bill’s life.
When people see a topic or bill title called “school choice”, or something similar, they feel that it must be a good thing because it has a very liberating word in it, “choice.” Let’s not be myopic. Promises for free money and choices could be just one piece of a bigger puzzle and could cause us to not see the full picture. When we get excited about one piece of a puzzle it can be easy to forget the picture we are trying to create.
The Picture of Education
What is the picture of education? Thomas Jefferson, a lifelong proponent of education for all people, pictured a society where all people could read, discuss, write, and contract business. He saw people owning land and improving society because of their industry and education. This is why he hoped for more colleges and quality public education. On his headstone he wanted to be remembered more for founding the University of Virginia than for writing the Declaration of Independence. He saw education as the main factor in freedom.
Interestingly enough, Adolf Hitler and Mao also saw education as power. They worked to create youth movements and to reprogram children in schools to follow their new social orders. Mao and Hitler had pictures of education too, but their pictures led to societal transformation and control, not freedom. Whoever controls the words and education, controls the society and the future.
Historically, parents, who teach their children to speak and read, have been the key influencers in culture and education. But, as we’ve shifted our focus toward peers, media, and outside learning facilities, parents don’t always get to sculpt society with the same power they once had. What did parents from years gone by, who started movements like private schools and homeschools, know that we might be forgetting?
The whole point of the private school or homeschool is to have a different educational environment, curricula, and experience than the public school offers. The main differences are the relationships to teachers, the moral foundations, and the methods of instruction. None of these things cost money. So, why are we always talking about money in the education debate?
The “school choice” movement is not about better education, better relationships, or improved methods of instruction. The “school choice” movement is about money. Let’s not forget that fact as we examine what is really best for our children and our families.
I’m a firm believer in agency! In fact, there is hardly a more powerful principle for our freedom. But, choice without all the information from the past, present, or future, isn’t really choice. It’s a shot in the dark.
11 Facts We Shouldn’t Forget
Here are 11 facts that we must not forget about the “school choice” movement if we are to maintain our educational freedoms.
1. Don’t forget that everyone in the United States of America already has school choice. I speak at the largest homeschool conferences in the nation and have never met a person yet who said that the US or state government has stopped them from choosing homeschool for their child.
What about private schools? Sure, they often have a steep price point because they’re exclusive. But, that’s the point isn’t it? If anyone can come to a private school, that destroys the point of the privately engineered education and student body. I’ve seen parents take on extra jobs and move into smaller homes to be able to send their children to private schools. They chose private schools and were willing to do what it takes to get there. They are using school choice.
2. Don’t forget that learning happens no matter if the learning is structured or not. I know how to sew, crochet, cook, garden, fish, manage money, start a business speak in public, and more because of my parents and grandparents, not because of school. The majority of my skills and views I learned outside of school. Fancy devices and more extracurricular activities aren’t necessary for learning. Learning will happen each day no matter what. Sure, sometimes we want our child to learn a specific sport or talent on our timetable, but that’s just our preference. They aren’t required for learning. Paid sports, music, and media aren’t bad. It’s just that they aren’t required for learning and growing. Our affluent society just thinks they are.
3. Don’t forget that the money problem involving education taxes paid by those not using the money has already been solved by online charter schools like MyTech High and others who give education money to parents who sign up for their schools and submit their expenses for home or private education options. Wouldn’t “school choice” scholarships actually compete against these other school models? Couldn’t they create a monopoly on education money kickbacks because they have different disbursement rules? The scholarships would be creating a whole new category of education that isn’t needed.
4. Don’t forget that money disbursement rules don’t stay the same over time. Many schools that reimburse parents for educational expenses, like MyTech High, have changed their policies and procedures in recent years. These changes involving extra rules have frustrated some parents.
5. Don’t forget that homeschooling and private schooling haven’t been about the money; they’ve generally been about the child. A homeschool parent lovingly and patiently helps their child learn what that child needs next, no matter the cost or the time involved. And, private school parents sacrifice the extra drive time and money because they feel the environment will be best for the child.
6. Don’t forget that money doesn’t validate education. The greatest educators have always been parents, and they hold a lot of power because they educate and nurture as an act of love, not money. Putting parents on a payroll creates parent entitlement and decreases their inherent value and purpose in the eyes of the populace. (Some may say that parents can’t get paid from the scholarship money. But, when a parent doesn’t have to pay for something, they essentially got paid.)
7. Don’t forget that entangling money and government in education decreases freedom of education. We’ve wanted out of fed money and control in education for a long time. Why would we open the door to fed education money by taking state money to give to parents?
8. Don’t forget that money always leads to accountability or control measures. This accountability is most often done through assessments (testing or data collection) and ultimately leads to a loss of freedom. This past year in Utah, a school choice scholarship bill was drafted with the promise that there would be no assessments. But, by the end, there was direct language about assessments in the bill. It always happens in the end.
9. Don’t forget that once a government project is created, it becomes the first priority of the agents of that project to protect their job and the project by making it seem indispensable. Other types of scholarships given to families have cropped up in recent years around the country, and those project organizers often spend a large portion of their time trying to find the people to use the funds.
10. Don’t forget cause and effect and common sense. If we have enough money to take from state education or general funds to give back to parents, then obviously we are taxing too much and should simply decrease taxes to lighten everyone’s financial burden during these hard times. Why would we take money from people for the purpose of giving the money back to the people? The practice is illogical and controlling. Sounds like the solution might be to decrease taxes.
11. Don’t forget that big money is being spent to save parents’ money. (The big money is paying for salaries, videos, events, advertising, etc.) Why would national business tycoons want to give big money to every state to make the states give money to parents? It doesn’t make sense. This movement is often presented as grassroots, but it isn’t. It’s a movement with big money and big plans. It preys on people who feel that taxation isn’t just and people who feel that the school system has gone awry. They feel entitled to get their money back or to maybe send a message to the school system. Big money is banking on people being emotional instead of logical. As long as we keep focusing on the money, the big money players behind the movement get to do whatever it is they hope to do. It’s a massive distraction. Education can’t be about the money. We have to make it about the principle.
Are we really ready to quit doing the best thing for our child because of money? And, is money really the indicator that our choice is the best? Could consumer mindset cause us to forget our principles and our freedoms? Parents will keep choosing which type of education they feel will best fit their children and families with or without government kickbacks because that is what parents do when they love their children. They work hard and sacrifice for whatever they deem is best. Whatever a person prioritizes, they’ll fund themselves. Money isn’t required for education. Education is a principle of freedom that must be preserved. As we make education only about the money, through “school choice” scholarships and the like, then that true foundation of freedom and education will just become another product to buy and sell. And, if that’s the case, the children will continue to be exploited by all those wanting to teach them for the money.