Son, Your Ideas Are Weird

Portion of Sunday morning’s phone conversation with my mom.

Mom: I listened to your show last night.  It was a good show.

Me:  Thanks.  I thought it was just okay.

Mom: You had a lot of callers. But your ideas about education are a little weird.

My Mom

Mom, Kay Downes with my nephew, Jarod and neice, Marissa

That’s okay Mom, several people, friends, acquaintances and listeners, would second your opinion.  Admittedly, my thoughts on reforming education are, well, they’re  out of the mainstream.  I guess that means their weird.  But they’re completely consistent with my Libertarian beliefs on liberty, personal responsibility and the proper role of government in our lives.

Here’s the root of the issue, the root of every issue as far as I’m concerned.  No person can morally claim a right to the life or property of another.  Moreover, no group, even if they are the majority, can give away or vote away the rights of others, not even if they are doing it with good intentions for the “common good”.  This fundamental truth leads me to this:  education should not be funded by government.

I believe in choice, including school choice.  But after thinking about it for some time, I’m not convinced the proposed school choice measures go far enough to fix the education issues in our country.  In fact, I see enough pitfalls with vouchers alone, that I believe they may lead to devastating unintended consequences.  I’m not speaking of harm to the public education system.  I don’t give a rat’s tail about the system.  I’m talking about damage to education itself.

First, if you are a private school parent or administrator, do you really want to take tax money.  Think about this a minute.  If a Catholic School accepts vouchers paid for with tax dollars, then the private school becomes a public school.  What’s to stop atheists from protesting outside your school demanding you change the curriculum to eliminate all religious references? Would they win that challenge in court?  Do you want to take that chance? Moreover, do you want to deal with that nonsense?

Second, let’s estimate that Indiana has about 115,000 private school students.  These are parents that have decided to pay for their children’s education themselves.  I applaud that by the way. But, if we put a voucher system in place, doesn’t the system have to give these parents vouchers equal in value to other non-private school  kids?  I’m not arguing the fairness of this, just that these kids are “off the grid” now.  If we add them in, it’s an additional 115,000 kids added to the system at what we hear is $10,000 per student per year.  That’s over a billion dollars a year in additional cost that is not accounted for in any of the current budget proposals.

The current school choice options won’t work in my view.  They create unintended consequences that I believe will damage education in general, not just the system.  The real fix is to begin a multi-year phasing out of public funding for education.  I’ll get to suggestions on how we might do that in a different post.  For now I’ll just admit that my ideas seem weird today.  But they aren’t.  They seem weird because for several generations we have bought into the notion that a free education is a right.  In accepting that notion as true, we have eroded our personal liberty, our rights to our own personhood.

You may be saying to yourself, “If we don’t force people to pay for a free education, people won’t help others.”  Some won’t.  But I believe Americans value an educated population as something that is in their self-interest and would voluntarily support private funding of schools.  Dollars to donuts, most of those who don’t value education and would opt out aren’t paying for the funding of schools now.


About Larry Downes

Son, brother, husband, father, boss, mentor & friend. Believer in unfettered personal liberty. Occasional host on 93.1 WIBC in Indianapolis.

One Response to “Son, Your Ideas Are Weird”

  1. I like your mom. 😉

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