Let me start with my bonafides. I am a Christian, a deacon in a Baptist Church, a Bible teacher and sometime preacher. I do not like the label evangelical but it probably fits. I started homeschooling before it was cool. 29 years ago, in St Louis, my oldest son was getting ready to start school. Not sure what we were going to do, we visited the local public school and a nearby Christian School. We registered our son at both and waited until the last minute to make a decision. In the end we decided to homeschool. At the time homeschooling was pretty unusual. I don’t even remember if we knew any homeschoolers. I am sure that our families were wondering what we were doing to their grandson! Since then we have had seven more children and all of them have been homeschooled for some portion of their education.
I am not a conscientious objector — I am not opposed to public school!
Every year we have looked at each child and each school and have made decisions about what we felt was best at the time. Sometimes it meant homeschooling, sometimes it meant private school, and sometimes it meant public school.
With the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary and Republicans taking control of the Iowa Statehouse there has been a lot of talk about making vouchers or tax credits a reality.
So, why am I … a Christian, conservative, Republican, homeschooler … against school choice. In reality I am not! I believe strongly in school choice. Unfortunately in today’s political lexicon, school choice has come to mean tax credits, vouchers, or both.
Let’s look at some of the arguments for so-called school choice.
1. Homeschool (and private school) is too expensive
Having homeschooled eight kids I know that homeschool (or private schools) is expensive. In addition to the actual costs, there is the opportunity cost of having my wife not be employed outside of the home for all these years. Some of you might be saying,
Dave, you are an engineer with a family income in the top 10% nationally, of course you do not need financial help homeschooling.
My response would be that I know what the struggle is like. When you consider my income vs family size (per-capita) the numbers look much different 🙂 When we started homeschooling I was an assistant manager in a restaurant and I moonlighted delivering newspapers in the early morning to make ends meet.
So I agree, homeschooling is expensive and not everyone can afford to do it.
2. I already pay for public school
Yes you do. So does my neighbor who has no kids. If you get a break shouldn’t he? As long as we have taxpayer supported public schools, we should support them. Whether we should have government schools is another discussion.
3. Competition will make the public schools better
Many advocates for school choice believe that this is their most compelling argument. It certainly follows the maxim that competition improves quality.
On the other hand there is a downside. Vouchers are the government (state or federal) taking your money laundering it and returning a portion to you … for which they expect you to be thankful! Tax credits are the government giving you permission to spend your own money …. for which they expect you to be thankful!
Worse, it is naive to think that if the government education and tax bureaucracies get together to do anything that it will be successful. Wherever government money goes, government strings follow.
I know, there’s no such thing as government money. The government gives nothing that it has not first taken away
One of the things that makes private schools or home school great is that there is little or no government interference. (Someone please tell State Senator Matt McCoy!!!) As a Christian, I know that by accepting 501(c)3 status churches have voluntarily accepted government control over their ability to shape debate in the public arena.
At our GOP Conventions I am the guy who always speaks against the credit/voucher/choice plank. My speech always end with:
Keep the government out of my private school, keep the government out of my parochial school, and keep the government out of my homeschool!