Monday, 29 August 2011

08:58 – As regular readers know, I’m no friend of either government or religion, which I consider to be twin plagues on humanity. Either on its own is bad enough; the two working together have historically been the single greatest threat to human rights. As you might expect, I’m a strong advocate of the separation of church and state.

So it may surprise you that I’m also a strong advocate of school voucher programs, despite the fact that these vouchers are often used to support religious schools. This morning, I read an article in the paper about a small school voucher program in Indiana, only about 3,000 students, that’s being decried as the apocalypse by public schools. Then, when I flipped to the editorial page, I found an article by George Will about a school choice program in Castle Rock, Colorado.

These stories have the same thread in common. In both cases, opponents have introduced the red herring of church-state separation. In both cases, religion has nothing to do with the issue, other than peripherally. The real issue is that public schools–whose employees are grossly overpaid, grossly underworked, and grossly underperforming–live in fear of having to compete with private alternatives. They understand that, given the choice, parents will opt for superior schools provided by the free market. There go their ridiculously high salaries and benefits, not to mention their job security. They’re fully aware that they can’t compete.

My solution to this problem has always been simple: establish school voucher programs without limitations on the number of students eligible. Make them dollar-for-dollar programs. Parents who wish to enroll their children in private schools receive a voucher in the amount of the average amount spent per student in the public schools, including facilities costs. That amount is deducted from the amount provided to the public schools. And homeschoolers should be eligible to cash these vouchers up to, say, three students worth, to help stay-at-home moms and dads who are educating their own children at home.

If such programs were widely implemented, the results are predictable. Public schools would wither. The only students who would attend public schools would be those whose parents don’t care enough to seek better alternatives for their children. The overall educational level of children would soon show huge gains, since private schools and home schools are demonstrably hugely superior to public schools. The total cost of education would plummet as public schools died and the voucher amount was adjusted downward to reflect reduced costs.

Less obvious, perhaps, is that such programs would also nearly eliminate home schooling in the current sense. Many, probably most, parents who currently home school their own children would not do so if they could instead send their children to schools that they approved of. Traditional private schools, religious and secular, would initially grow by leaps and bounds, but alternative small private schools would also thrive. Most of these alternative private schools would be founded by homeschoolers who really enjoyed what they were doing and were good at it. Instead of educating just their own children, they’d begin educating other children as well, and eventually become actual schools.

Of course, the teachers’ unions and state government education departments will do everything they can to prevent this from happening. We see that now, with artificial restrictions and regulations enforced on home schoolers to prevent the homeschool phenomenon from developing further. In many states, for example, it would be illegal for a homeschool family to hire my friend Paul Jones, a chemistry professor at Wake Forest University, to come in and teach chemistry to their children. Those state laws consider the parents qualified to teach their own children, but do not consider Dr. Jones qualified to teach them. Similarly, many state laws prohibit a homeschool mom or dad from teaching other people’s children, once again to prevent small private alternative schools from flourishing. At the behest of teachers’ unions and other self-interested parties, many states have ridiculous health, environmental, and facilities regulations for any school that teaches students from more than one family. Again, those have nothing to do with the safety of or quality of education for the students themselves. They’re there only to protect entrenched public education interests.

That’s why I’m encouraged every time I read an article about good things happening for home schoolers and the advance of school choice.

Saturday, we shipped the last two chemistry kits we had in stock. We now have another dozen and a half in the final stages of assembly and have gotten started on the next batch of two dozen. We’ll ship outstanding orders tomorrow or Wednesday.

11:02 – At least some of the MSM are starting to catch on…

Eurozone crisis: ‘I’ve tried A! I’ve tried B! I’ve tried C!…’ Click, and out