School Choice is a great idea; it’s what all parents in a free society desire. Americans have that choice. We are able to choose public, private, or homeschool for our children. If one method does not work, we simply choose another.
However, the term “school choice” has basically been hijacked to mean something totally different. There are two issues that fall within this discussion:
- education freedom; i.e., the rights of parents to educate their kids in the way they see fit, without regulation or restriction
- education subsidies; i.e., requiring taxpayers to foot the bill for a kid’s education, whether it’s their kid or not
The term “school choice” has come to mean new things. It varies based on who is talking.
This page is dedicated to EDUCATION FREEDOM, as well as exposing the truth behind education subsidies called “school choice,” both in Texas and at the national level.
The “School Choice” discussed on this page involves the use of
- ESAs (Education Savings Accounts)
- some charter schools
to direct funds from the state (or Feds, or both) to a chosen educational style.
Overall, peer-reviewed research in the United States has found that vouchers have had little, if any, effect on student academic performance or education quality in public schools competing with private voucher schools. Only a few places, however, have used vouchers, making Chile’s fully voucherized school system a cautionary tale for American reformers. (source)
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Isn’t this Optional? Optional programs will still affect everyone. Follow the carrot. If the state promises roughly $5,000 in cash per child (as in Texas Senate Bill 3 and Texas House Bill 1335 – see bottom of this page), a family with 3 children would receive $15,000. That’s some serious carrot right there! Suddenly, parents who never had the desire or conviction to homeschool their children will see it in a whole new light. There will be abuse of education dollars, and neglect of the education.
Those receiving the funds will, of course, require state testing. When their test scores do not reflect a “rigorous” education, all homeschoolers will be scrutinized. Requirements for homeschooling will be introduced to make it “fair.”
All homeschoolers will be affected, whether they take the
bait money or not.
Karen Braun (Spunky Homeschool) has been a watchdog for educational freedom for years. She says: “speaking of a ‘valid diploma’ are homeschoolers aware that the FAFSA regulations were changed in Obama’s first term to require colleges to determine the “validity” of a high school diploma. And who do you think will be the one considered “valid” in Texas if this passes, the one who “opts in.” I call it the “soft consequences of non-participation” Those that play the game get the reward. Those that don’t won’t. They are not “punished” for NOT opting in but they will not reap the benefits of those that comply.”
2. Shouldn’t I be allowed to use my own tax dollars in any way I like? This is a common question, but ignores the fact that once you pay tax dollars, they are no longer yours. The solution is not to get your tax dollars back on a debit card to spend on approved materials, which is what vouchers and Education Savings Accounts are. That’s not “spending your tax dollars in any way you like.”
Can you think of any other situation in which the government provides products or money for a citizen to spend “any way they like?” Even food purchases are regulated.
The solution is to attack taxes in a different way. Vote and lobby to reduce or do away with the property tax system.
3. Don’t you know that not everyone gets a choice? We all have a choice. Some choices are harder to obtain, but if we want them badly enough we will do what it takes to have them. If we choose to own an iPhone, we can find a way to pay for it. If we choose to eat out every Friday night, we find a way to pay for it. Why is education choice any different?
Sure, there’s a free system (if you want to call it free). The public school system is a choice. Private school is another choice. Homeschool is another choice. You decide which you are willing to pay for. That is the cornerstone of freedom: choosing and accepting the terms.
As a homeschooler, I can tell you with 18 years experience that it does not cost even a fraction of the public school price to educate a child. While public schools in Texas spend $9,150 per student each year on education (and that went up from the previous year), homeschoolers spend anywhere from $0 to $1,000 per year, depending on the family situation.
The freedom and flexibility of homeschooling allow parents to choose a curriculum that fits their family needs, including budget, ages, schedules, and abilities.
“Choice” does not mean “government funded” despite what you hear.
4. Are you against the free market? School Choice proponents are touting this as a “free market” system of education. But that’s really not honest. So, what does “free market” actually mean?
Merrian Webster defines it like this: an economic market or system in which prices are based on competition among private businesses and not controlled by a government
The Library of Economics and Liberty defines it as a summary term for an array of exchanges that take place in society. Each exchange is undertaken as a voluntary agreement between two people or between groups of people represented by agents.
Wikipedia says: One view is that a free market is a system in which the prices for goods and services are determined by the open market and consumers, in which the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority.
And Investipedia states: When most people discuss the “free market,” they mean an economy with unobstructed competition and only private transactions between buyers and sellers. However, a more inclusive definition should include any voluntary economic activity so long as it is not controlled by coercive central authorities.
So, it’s clear that government funded Education Savings Accounts are not a “free market” tool. If the state is funding and overseeing all the education — public, private, and home — that’s a monopoly.
I guess folks think that because the government is “allowing” parents to use a debit card — state money set aside in authorized accounts to pay for approved schools and materials — they somehow feel “empowered.”
The Political Roots of School Choice
In my research, trying to figure out the root of this idea, I found it to be surprisingly Republican in origin. This is tricky because it is typically conservatives and/or Republicans who promote smaller government and individual freedoms. But when you begin to discuss school choice or vouchers publicly, you will see that (for the most part) Democrats or liberals are against it and Republicans or conservatives are for it.
Betsy DeVos, current Secretary of Education, resigned from her position at this organization (Federation for Children) just before her appointment to the Department of Education. Randan Steinhauser (now pushing for Texas school choice) “had previously traveled the country lobbying for school choice legislation as national director of external affairs for the American Federation of Children [Betsy’s organization], the nation’s largest school choice organization.”
It’s important to understand who is pushing this and the reasoning they use. Who are the players? Who stands to gain? Where are the funds coming from? It’s confusing and tricky.
Read my post Exposing School Choice.
Existing School Choice and Voucher Programs (and what other states have to say)
Supporters of Texas ESAs say that this kind of program has been successful in other states. But studies have shown that the outcome is not what was expected.
“Two decades of studies on voucher programs in six cities and two states have not led to a resounding conclusion that vouchers work to improve education across the board. Of the 20 studies by the pro-voucher Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, 10 found vouchers had no effect on participants’ test scores at all. The pro-voucher Fordham Foundation, which analyzed Ohio’s program, was honest that it found those results dismaying: “We did not expect — or, frankly, wish — to see these negative effects for voucher participants,” the researchers wrote.” (Source)
“Four recent studies — two in Louisiana, one in Ohio and one in Indianapolis — all showed that using public funds on private-school attendance led to drops in students’ state test scores. These declines are substantial. For instance, one Louisiana study showed that a student who started at the 50th percentile in academic performance dropped to the 37th percentile after two years at a private school.” (Source)
Stop Common Core in Michigan: ‘We’re Not Fooled’ by Betsy DeVos, ‘We Know the Truth’: An advocate primarily of school choice and school vouchers, DeVos said that putting “kids first” means “expanding choices and options to give every child the opportunity for a quality education regardless of their zip code or their family circumstances.”
New Orleans Education Forum explores the connection between business and education: ‘Duplessis, who is also a New Orleans banking executive, said a business owner’s primary concern, when considering where to locate, is the quality of the education system. “Will I be able to have a qualified and competent workforce to grow my industry?”’ Also quoted: “The goals of providing parents with quality education options and business owners seeking a highly trained workforce shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m not raising my children to be worker bees. I’m raising them to meet their full potential in this world in the way God designed.
Choice and Charter Schools Kill Public Schools: “CHOICE” is a pretty cozy word that assumes freedom. Little do parents understand the tentacles of federal strings that accompany federal assistance. Or, maybe they haven’t thought of it in those terms. But, yes, CHOICE is accepting federal assistance. And with that comes the “Have To’s”, where all children, parents, teachers, and schools will be forced into the federal government’s obsession with domineering over the lives of our little children.
If you’re so inclined, you can read TONS of pro-school-choice articles HERE
Read about the results of Chile’s school choice experiment. This Washington Post article gives details about Chile’s education environment, as well as current stats on the states in the U.S. that currently have “school choice” laws in place.
The dangers are multi-faceted. These are not “scare tactics,” or fear-mongering. Please research for yourself and read the articles linked, watch the videos, and listen to the podcasts. It’s long past time for all parents to be their own watchdogs.
- Here’s a great article by a Michigan mom: An Open Letter to Lawmakers on Education Savings Accounts.
- School Choice is the Carrot to Control: All the current legislation on “school choice” at a state and federal level ultimately hands parental rights on school choice to the state and federal government.
- “It’s becoming increasingly clear that the educrats who want a public/private centralized education system under the guise of “school choice” have done an amazing sales job. Lol. This totally reminds me of when I was first opposing Common Core (part of the same system) in 2009. After all who could be against “higher standards” in education? Me. Who can be against “school choice” in education? ME. Choice never originates from the state — that is where CONTROL begins.” For those who would like to know more, Listen to this podcast by Alice Linahan and Karen Spunky Braun, who give more insight.
- School Choice is America’s Trojan Horse: Under the proposed school choice proposals, including Parent Trigger laws, education is being surreptitiously converted from academics to socialist work force training, necessary for the United States imminent merging into a global, collectivized economy. In 2018, President Trump announced his plan to merge the Department of Education with the Department of Labor. (We’d be much better off closing down the Department of Education and putting control back with the states and local communities where it belongs.)
- ESA is part of “money follow the child” which is one of the two key components in school choice. The other is data. Each child has a “financial backpack” and a “data backpack” that follow them through their education career. If a child wants to pursue a career that the data does not show he will be successful the money will dry up. So the two work in harmony to propell a child in a direction that meets the demands of the state to fill jobs (see previous point). Michigan has begun creating “work ready” communities to prepare students for the “worker pipeline” in that region. When money follows the child, the state NOT the parents makes the “tough choices” about where the student will go next. This is the goal in all 50 states. Read how it’s happening in Michigan HERE. Read about Michigan’s “Work Ready Communities” HERE.
- The state’s goals laid out in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s report, “60X30TX” must be achieved to build a globally competitive Texas. The report recognizes that by 2030, we need at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25-34 to have a certificate or degree. What ever happened to freedom to choose??? We aren’t here at the delight of the state. ESAs, if designed correctly, are a significant tool that will put Texas on a path to achieve that goal. (source)
- Bill Gates wants the public sector to pay for innovative education with technology.
- Is School Choice a Scam? Texas Senator Taylor, who sits on the Texas Commission on Next Generation of Assessment of Accountability called for the State of Texas to align its student accountability standards with that of the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA steers away from academics to implementing, testing and data mining your children on Social Emotional Learning (SEL).
This document from Texas Policy Foundation on The Achilles Heel of Texas: Improving College Eligibility Rates Through K-12 Education Savings Accounts by Dr. Matthew Ladner states:
Since 2011 however, school choice innovators have developed account-based choice programs— known as Education Savings Accounts—which allow parents to manage a state-funded account to choose between single or multiple providers…[In Arizona] Parents access these funds through the use of a debit card, and the statute specifies the allowable use of the accounts. (Page 11)
Further: The Arizona program is overseen by the Arizona treasurer’s office and the Arizona Department of Education…In cases of suspected fraud, the Department of Education is empowered to refer cases to the Arizona attorney general’s office for investigation and possible prosecution (page 12)
You must comply with the terms in order to receive the money. It’s the top of the slippery slope.
The Threat to Religious Freedom
Our Constitution guarantees it. Our citizens seek to protect it. But will we give it away for the promise of education dollars on a debit card?
“Nothing will more quickly destroy independent Christian schools than state aid: their freedom and independence will soon be compromised, and before long their faith.” ~George Bernard Shaw, Fabian Socialist
This, from the mouth of a socialist. Remember, socialism is based on the “fairness” and “equality.” So is school choice.
Parents, be careful what you wish for.
But Homeschool Organizations Support School Choice!
Texas Homeschool Coalition issued a statement on their Facebook page in support of this kind of policy. You can read more at this link: Does Texas Homeschool Coalition Represent YOU? and also Why Homeschool Parents Must be Their Own Guardians of Freedom.
Not only is this a key issue for Texas Homeschool Coalition, they do not delight in debate of any kind. For the past several years, THSC has deleted comments questioning the wisdom of this policy, and deleting those people from their Facebook page.
The THSC Political Action Committee is very active, and “school choice” legislation is their litmus test for candidates they support. Despite every other stance a candidate may take on political issues, THSC will not endorse a candidate who does not support school choice, vouchers, or “equal access” legislation like the Tim Tebow laws.
Other states do not support government-funded home education, such as Oklahoma, Indiana, and Nevada. They are wise.
What You Can Do
1. Read past bills to understand the language being introduced:
2. Contact your State Representative and Senator. Find your elected officials HERE. Call, visit their office, send an email, tag them on Twitter. Do all of the above. Get to be their new best friends!
3. Contact your State Republican Executive Committee member. Repeat as above. Find them HERE.
The Republican Party of Texas platform – Plank 147 – states:
We believe that all children should have access to quality education. We support the right to choose public, private, charter, or home education. We support the distribution of educational funds in a manner that they follow the student to any school, whether public, private, charter, or home school through means of tax exemptions and/or credits.
4. Organizing locally is THE only thing that will be able to make things better. Network with other homeschoolers in your local area and connect with the rest of us across the state. Share this page. Email and call your friends. When the Legislature is in session (starting in January), consider a trip to Austin for hearings on new bills; bring a carload. Fill the hearings with supportive bodies, submit a written statement, or even come to testify before a committee.
- Become familiar with the language in Federal HR 4862 (text here).
- Read up on the 529 Education Savings Accounts that Ted Cruz introduced (again).
- Contact your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator and explain the loss of freedom that homeschoolers face with “choice” legislation. Find them here.
Beware of anyone touting fake “choice.”
Check out my interview in the Texas Tribune.
Listen to my interview with Bill Lockwood on American Liberty.
Listen to my interview on West Texas Drive.
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