Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why We Need the Separation of Education and State

Killeen, Texas School Bans Charlie Brown Christmas Poster by Tyler O’Neil, posted at PJ Media in December 2016, is a good example of why government schools should not exist in a free society:

Dedra Shannon, a staffer at Patterson Middle School in Killeen, was ordered [by the principal] to remove a door-length poster featuring the iconic scene of Linus in front of a kid-sized tree uttering the true meaning of Christmas: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord. That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

The principal argued that the poster was "an issue of separation of church and state" and that it "had to come down because it might offend kids from other religions or those who do not have a religion." The principal said Shannon could keep the picture of Linus up but had to remove the offending dialogue.

"I just took the entire thing down," Shannon recalled. "I wasn't going to leave Linus and the Christmas tree without having the dialogue. That's the whole point of why it was put up."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton would not let this stand, however. He accused the Killeen Independent School District of violating the state's Merry Christmas Law. That law, passed in 2013, ensures that no school official in Texas can silence a biblical reference to Christmas.

"We passed that law precisely because of this type of discrimination against people of faith," Paxton told Starnes. "This is an attack on religious liberty and a violation of the First Amendment and state law."

O’Neil goes on to report “Exactly how a poster showing Linus with a well-known Christmas quote constitutes ‘imposing’ personal beliefs on students the district did not explain. It seems to imply that the mere possibility of a non-Christian student seeing the poster is enough to cause psychological harm.”

But psychological harm is not the point. The "’imposing’ [of] personal beliefs on students” comes from the fact that government schools are imposed on students by government force—that is, force of taxation and compulsory attendance laws. A public school teacher is, by extension, an agent of the government and there bound by Constitution. The biblical reference is, by definition, a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on Establishment of Religion by government.

But, that’s not the whole story.

I left these comments:

The principal argued that the poster was "an issue of separation of church and state."

"We passed that law precisely because of this type of discrimination against people of faith," Paxton told Starnes. "This is an attack on religious liberty and a violation of the First Amendment . . . ."

Both are correct.

Government owned and administered schools must not allow its property to be used for any activity “respecting an establishment of religion,” thus violating dissenting taxpayers’ right to freedom of conscience. On the other hand, Christians are as much taxpaying supporters of government schools as non-Christians, so they have as much right to display religious Christmas greetings as anyone has to display secular Christmas greetings: To do otherwise amounts to “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” as well as “abridging the freedom of speech,” violating the rights of Christians in two ways.

Displaying the poster and forbidding its display both violate the First Amendment. This is a government-created contradiction. I believe the most fundamental issue here is not one of separation of church and state nor freedom of religion nor free speech. The fundamental issue is the proper role of government regarding education: specifically, the propriety of government being involved with financing, owning, or administering schools. These kinds of conflicts wouldn’t arise if we didn’t have government-run education. If all education were privately owned, run, and funded, the schools could make their own policies regarding expressions of conscience, and parents can consider such policies when choosing a school for their children. Whatever school parents then choose, they’d have to follow the school’s rules. (I’m leaving aside the issue of “discrimination against people of faith.” The government shouldn’t discriminate in the enforcement of its laws. But anti-discrimination laws targeted at the private sector violate the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of association. But that is off-topic and a subject for another day.)

To avoid these kinds of unnecessary conflicts, and for many other reasons, I propose the following addition to the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of education, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In short, we need the separation of education and state in the same way and for the same reasons as we have the separation of church and state—to protect intellectual freedom.

Short of that—and while acknowledging that Christians have a legitimate beef—I have to side with the school district. Religion itself is the larger threat to freedom because it is inherently authoritarian, which is why there must be an impenetrable firewall between religion and political power (the power of legalized force). As long as we have government schools, the Texas conflict and the like must be resolved on the side of separation of church and state as articulated in the First Amendment “establishment” and “free exercise” clauses. Once we crack the door open to government establishment of religion, no matter how small the crack, we start down a road that leads to theocratic tyranny. And that would be the end of freedom of religion, speech, press, and association—the entire First Amendment—and by extension freedom generally.

I would add one more important observation. Shannon said, "I wasn't going to leave Linus and the Christmas tree without having the [biblical] dialogue. That's the whole point of why it was put up."

No, it’s not the “whole point.” Christmas ceased being a strictly religious holiday the minute Congress made it a legal holiday. A legal religious holiday in a nation dedicated to freedom of religion and conscience is a contradiction. (The Founders used the terms “religion” and conscience” interchangeably. They understood religious freedom to encompass the freedom not to believe in or practice any religion—in effect, not just freedom of religion, but freedom from religion as well.) Being a national legal holiday, Christmas can have non-religious, non-Christian meaning just as validly as a Christian meaning. It’s a matter of individual preference. Otherwise, what’s the point of freedom of conscience?

Related Reading:

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Educational Freedom, Not Just Education, ‘Has to Be the Top Priority for Candidates

In a letter published in The Jersey Journal prior to the 2017 election, Jersey City Board of Education member Marilyn Roman expressed disappointment that the candidates didn’t pay more attention to education. In Education has to be the top priority for candidates, Roman wrote,

The issues the group wanted both Mayor Fulop and Mr. Matsikoudis to address were to be limited to jobs, affordable housing and safety all of which are relevant issues in our city. It occurred to me, however, that while the group made some mention of education, it was not really addressed by both candidates. It was the missing component, but it is the piece that makes all of the other issues come together. No one seemed to pick up education as a key component toward making everything else fall into place.

In the 21st century economy of today, it is extremely difficult to get a good job unless you have an education and for the most part that education has to be geared to a field where there is a need for qualified personnel. When this country entered the global economy, they neglected to gear up the education community properly toward providing the skills necessary to succeed in the jobs market of the future and the future has arrived and we do not have enough people with the skills to fill the jobs that are needed.

I left these comments:

We don’t need politicians addressing education. They’ve been doing that for decades. This letter could have been written 40 years ago. I recently listened to NY Mayor Bill De Blasio, speaking on CNBC post-election, urge us to “fix our educational system.” It’s the same old mantra. Everyone from the president on down has got their scheme to fix what can’t be fixed–our one-size-fits-all, monopolized government education establishment.

We need to get politicians out of education and get the parents and educators in charge. There are various ways to accomplish this. While I don’t believe in the morality of wealth redistribution, Americans won’t accept a fully free education market at this time. What we can do is redirect the dollars now spent on each child’s schooling by recognizing the moral right of parents to direct the course of their own children’s education through universal school choice. This can be accomplished by essentially giving the education tax dollars now spent on each child to the parents, to use according to their own judgement. Tax credits can accomplish that. Education savings accounts (ESAs) is another way .* This will open up the flood gates to the kind of entrepreneurial investment, innovation, experimentation, and competition that leads to refreshing new ideas and methods that can make excellence in education a reality.

As Ms. Roman observes, “When this country entered the global economy, they neglected to gear up the education community properly toward providing the skills necessary to succeed in the jobs market of the future and the future has arrived and we do not have enough people with the skills to fill the jobs that are needed.” But central planning essentially forbids people from “gearing up,” by smothering individual judgement under government mandates. How long is this failure of politicized education going to be tolerated? When will we learn that you can’t foster a competitive workforce geared to a competitive world economy on the back of an uncompetitive, monopolistic education system? It’s time that the future arrived in American education, as well.

* I’m thinking of ESAs that allow parents who withdraw their child from the public schools (traditional or charter) to have the per-pupil cost of their district’s schools deposited into a special account that parents can use toward their child’s education. They would keep any unspent money and use it toward other purposes, such as college expenses.

Related Reading:

Friday, December 8, 2017

Politics, Science, and National Unity

Congressman Rush Holt: Lawmakers need to use a scientific approach to formulating views: So heads a New Jersey Star-Ledger guest column by former NJ Congressman Rush Holt, published last December in response to Donald Trump’s election and his subsequent selection to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The first few paragraphs put forth, seemingly, a sound argument. After acknowledging that politics can be contentious, Holt writes:

I recognize, of course, that policymaking does not take place in a laboratory. I am not suggesting that science should be the only factor that lawmakers consider. But when it comes to the factual basis lawmakers use to inform their policy views, and to decide on a process for evaluating whether a particular policy has worked or failed, science should be the tool of first resort.

The stakes for our democracy are high. Many Americans are fearful that our elected leaders have forgotten how to find common ground, or don't want to, and that they continue to make assertions in disregard for each other. A scientific approach to formulating views and evaluating policies will provide politicians what they need to hone their proposals and, perhaps, walk back from some of their previous positions. That's not easy - I know, I've been there - but political arguments must resolve into policy choices at some point. Those choices should be pragmatic and informed by hard evidence and sound reasoning.

Having laid this reasonable-sounding groundwork, Holt’s real motive becomes apparent: It’s really a plug for Leftist policies regarding climate change and energy:

The stakes for our planet are high. We know, based on the work and expertise of the vast majority of climate scientists and virtually every leading scientific organization in the world, that human-caused climate change is real and dangerous. It is folly to ignore this scientific consensus - obstinate and irresponsible in the extreme.

And yet, a climate-change doubter has been put forward as the possible head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the next administration. There is no reason for such an appointment when there are scientists of every political stripe who adhere to the scientific method, have the humility to accept when they are wrong, and would be willing to serve their country if asked by an incoming president. I urge the president-elect and every incoming member of Congress to make use of the country's deep pool of talented scientists to serve as political appointees, staff members and outside experts.

What about scientists that dispute the alleged consensus?  The “hard evidence and sound reasoning,” it turns out, means disregarding reasoned analysis of the hard evidence of those who disagree. We as a nation must unite, says Holt, behind the statist climate agenda of the Left.

I left these comments:

The stakes for our planet are high. We know, based on the work and expertise of the vast majority of climate scientists and virtually every leading scientific organization in the world, that human-caused climate change is real and dangerous. It is folly to ignore this scientific consensus - obstinate and irresponsible in the extreme.

But should science be held up as an infallible authority? Climate change dogmatists routinely use the terms “scientists say” to shut down debate on their political policies and “climate denier” to smear anyone who dissents from their reliable energy-hostile statist “solutions.” Science—all science—should be consulted, not obeyed. We as reasoning individuals should do the evaluating.

What about political science? History and theory have demonstrated that political and economic freedom for individuals leads to steady human progress. Shouldn’t that knowledge and experience be integrated into the energy policy discussion regarding climate change? Voluntary consumer choice in a free market, not government coercion, should determine the energy sources we use.

What about the science of morality? Is it wrong for humans to change the climate, and the environment generally, in pursuit of human benefit? What is our moral standard of value? Is it maximizing human well-being and flourishing? Or is it minimizing human impact on the planet? Climate change dogmatists routinely assume the premise that human-caused climate change is bad per se. But is it? By what standard is it bad? Considering that the progress humans have made since the dawn of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution, the overwhelming weight of the evidence is that human-caused climate change, to the extent humans are the cause, is a very manageable and acceptable side-effect—and not necessarily all bad. The standard policymakers choose will determine if the policies they pursue will be constructive or destructive of human well-being.

What about the science of economics, which tells us that reliable, economical energy is vital to industrial civilization. Reliable, economical energy has made the environment much safer and climate dangers much more manageable for humans. Without it, immense human suffering would result. This is important because the more consistent environmentalists insist on eliminating fossil fuels and nuclear power regardless of whether any viable alternative exists (These are the naturalists, whose moral standard of value is minimal human impact). What about the demonstrated benefits of fossil fuels? Shouldn’t they be objectively weighed against the catastrophic negative impact on humans of outlawing them in the name of climate change? Where are the champions of fossil fuels?

Then there is this question: Should science funding be politicized, as it is now because of government funding of scientific research? What good is the “scientific consensus” when most research scientists rely on politicians for funding? Is it really a consensus that “human-caused climate change is real and dangerous?” Dangerous, to what degree? To whom or to what? Or is the much-touted “97% consensus” a fraud; nothing more than a wide diversity of scientific viewpoints mashed into a loose and essentially meaningless “consensus” that climate change is real and humans play a role, which no one disputes. We need the separation of science and state if we are going to have a fair and objective discussion of political policy based on science.

Should “scientific” prediction and speculation be equated with what is scientifically demonstrated? We have been hearing for decades that imminent catastrophe awaits humans because of climate change. Catastrophe, we are constantly told, is what “scientists say.” Yet life keeps getting better and safer for more and more people around the globe as reliable energy from fossil fuel use keeps growing. And no climate catastrophe. Only more and more failed predictions. Climate catastrophe, to quote Annie, is “always a day away.” Climate catastrophe is speculative. Mild, manageable, partly beneficial warming is the reality—as are the enormously greater benefits of fossil fuels. If someone said we should eliminate vaccines and antibiotics because they have some negative side effects, Holt would probably say—rightly—that they are crazy. But that’s where fossil fuel enemies are today.

It is the Left that is "obstinate and extreme." This article is just another plug for statist policies hiding behind science. If science is to be the common value that holds America united, then the climate change Left must stop demonizing and silencing rational dissenters to its political energy policies. The unchallenged premise is that climate change is bad and fossil fuels should be eliminated. This side has been in charge for too long. The climate catastrophists must stop hiding behind science and answer the dissenters openly and honestly. The dissenters are as much, if not more, attuned to science than the catastrophists ever were. It’s about time we had a balanced debate. Our energy security depends on rational pro-energy policies, not anti-climate change dogma. We may now, hopefully, get that from a Trump Administration.

Related Reading:

The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the 21st Century—Ronald Bailey

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Being Against the Birth Control Mandate is Not Being Against Birth Control

In 2014, the Supreme Court approved a narrow exemption for private businesses to opt out of the birth control mandate instituted under the ACA (ObamaCare) for religious reasons. Through regulatory changes, President Trump recently expanded the freedom of employers to opt out of the ObamaCare birth control mandate.  According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation,

The Trump Administration has issued new regulations that significantly broaden employers’ ability to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage requirement.  The regulation opens the door for any employer or college/ university with a student health plan with objections to contraceptive coverage based on religious beliefs to qualify for an exemption. Any nonprofit or closely-held for-profit employer with moral objections to contraceptive coverage also qualifies for an exemption. Their female employees, dependents and students will no longer be entitled to coverage for the full range of FDA approved contraceptives at no cost.

These are the extraordinary health consequences when we increase access to birth control, not only domestically but worldwide:

Better access has resulted in lower HIV rates, lower mother-to-child transmission of HIV, lower infant mortality rates, fewer abortions (both safe and unsafe), and it allows people to plan pregnancies, which results in better health for both mother and child.

I left these comments, edited for clarity:

No one is proposing to outlaw birth control. No one is proposing to make it illegal for anyone to voluntarily help a woman financially who can’t afford to pay for contraception out-of-pocket, or forbid that woman from seeking help from friends, family, or private charity. What the contraception mandate does is force some people to pay for other women’s contraception, and that’s immoral. It’s not about “access to birth control.” It’s about access to other people’s wallets—or not.

Having said that, carving out religious exemptions for this one insurance mandate is not enough. All insurance mandates should be abolished, so insurers can tailor policies to consumers’ demand, and consumers can more effectively buy the insurance they need, want, and that fits their budgets, whether businesses or individuals.

Don’t fall for the dishonest intellectual gimmickry. Being against the contraception mandate is not being against contraception. It does not mean being for more abortions, more HIV, more teen pregnancies, or less family planning. Only fools fall for that cruel “logic”. We each have our own lives to live. We are not our sisters’ keepers. Opposing the birth control mandate is being against legalized theft—a government as a tool of plunder to pick some people’s pockets for the unearned benefit of another. The insurance industry should not be a tool of socialist government policies. That’s fascism. Every individual is morally responsible for paying for her own healthcare needs, and insurance is a tool to help her do that, to be used when and as she sees fit. But no one has a right to insurance coverage that others don’t voluntarily provide, or that others are made to subsidize against their will.

Related Reading:

Monday, December 4, 2017

Does Evil Come From ‘Threatened Egotism’?

Ben Shapiro asks, “Where Does Evil Come From?,” and lists four basic ingredients for evil. Number four is “Sadism”, an ingredient for sure but which I’ll set aside for the sake of this post. It is the top three that I want to focus on. Citing Roy Baumeister’s book Evil: Inside Human Violence And Cruelty, Shapiro lists these roots:

1. Instrumentality: The notion that evil acts aren’t evil so long as you’re performing them with a good end in mind. This would include the suicide bomber, who believes that he’s changing the world for the better by slaughtering children in pizzerias, or the dictator who slaughters his enemies in pursuit of power.

2. Threatened Egotism. Baumeister found that violence wasn’t perpetrated by those with low self-esteem, but those with self-esteem that was threatened. He found that “violence is perpetrated by a subset of people who think well of themselves, and indeed it mainly occurs when they believe that their favorable images of self have been threatened or attacked.” This is the danger inherent in, for example, the microaggressions culture that suggests threat where none exists.

3. Idealism. This is really just a subset of instrumentality. It’s the belief that your violence makes the world a better place by drawing us closer to utopia. The worst wars in world history have been caused by idealism, as Karl Popper suggested.

Which one of these three doesn’t belong?

Number one is certainly true. The idea that the ends justify the means opens the door to all kinds of evil behavior. We see that moral principle at work in our politics everyday: So-and-so needs this-or-that, so we’ll just tax and/or regulate those with the capabilities to provide it, for the purpose of forcing them to provide it with or without their consent. That’s the mild version. Suicide bombers and dictators are the worst version, and the welfare state springs from the same moral premise as them.

Number three must refer to mystical, philosophical idealism; the belief in something drawn from a mystical realm inaccessible by observation and logic contrary to, in defiance of, or in disregard of the facts of man’s nature. In other words, feelings or whim. I would call this utopian idealism (as opposed to realistic idealism). Altruism is the common denominator between one and three. Utopians are definitely altruists. And since altruism virtue-izes sacrifice, these mystical idealists have no problem sacrificing any number of human beings to satisfy their utopian desire to “make the world a better place” according to their own ideals by any means necessary. Utopian idealism, such as socialism or theocracy, needs human sacrifice to implement. A realistic ideal, like American-style constitutional republicanism and its corollary, capitalism, does not.

Another cause not listed is the Philosopher King (or Ruler) premise. Shapiro mentions Karl Popper. Popper laid the ultimate blame for the horrific dictatorships of the 20th Century not just at the hands of intellectuals like Hegel and Marx, but ultimately at the hands of a man who lived 2500 years ago, Plato. “Popper would assert,” writes historian Arthur Herman in The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle and the Struggle  for the Soul of Western Civilization,

it had been Plato in the Republic and the Laws who would first encourage Western man “to see the individual as a pawn, as a somewhat insignificant instrument in the general development” of society toward virtue. It was Plato’s assertion of “the principle of collective unity” and in the Laws that “no one should ever be without a leader” that had spawned the succession of would-be Philosopher Rulers who had bathed history in blood, from Plato’s friend the tyrant Dion of Syracuse to Stalin and Hitler.

Citing Popper’s book The Open Society and Its Enemies, Herman goes on:

At bottom Popper’s thesis was that Plato had passed onto posterity a singularly dangerous vision of history. . . Popper dubbed that vision historicism” . . . defined . . . as the doctrine that history is governed by certain evolutionary laws, the discoverer of which allows us to prophesy the destiny of mankind.

Why did Popper think Plato’s historicism was important? First, because it destroys the notion of free will. It wrecks the notion that the future depends on us and the consequences of our own individual actions. . . Second, it encourages men to think they can use these laws to build a better future for society than if men are left to themselves. They become tempted to set themselves up as a ruling elite of Platonic Philosopher Rulers based on their knowledge of where History with a capital H is going.

“The wise shall lead and rule,” Plato had written, “and the ignorant shall follow.” Reading this passage from the Laws in the light of Aristotelian and Enlightenment-based models made it clear that Plato intended to divide society between Those Who Know and Those Who Must Obey. “Never,” Popper wrote, “was a man more in earnest in his hostility to the individual” than Plato. Popper pointed to another passage from the Laws, written in the context of military tactics: “The greatest principle is that nobody, whether male or female, should be without a leader.” It was this same principle that, Popper argued, the Communist Part in Russia, the Fascist Party in Italy, and the Nazi Party in Germany all embraced and made their own. *

The ends justify the means, mystical idealism, Historicism (historical determinism), philosopher rulers.

But what about Shapiro’s number two? I submit that what Shapiro actually has in mind is pseudo-self-esteem, not genuine self-esteem. Genuine self-esteem cannot be threatened by others, because genuine self-esteem is self-generated to begin with. Self-esteem, properly understood, is a self-assessment that one is capable of understanding and dealing with the world, solving his problems, and achieving his goals, generated and reinforced by genuine accomplishments over time and the pride associated with those accomplishments—on the way to making one’s own life the best it can be given one’s personal attributes. Self-esteem does not depend on others’ compliments or approval or praise (earned or unearned) from others. Genuinely earned praise and recognition is nice, but not essential to genuine self-esteem.

It follows that genuine self-esteem does not lead to power-lust. Just the opposite. It leads to respect for others and thus a willingness to deal with others by voluntary agreement rather than coercion. The urge or need to dominate others—for example, to achieve a utopian ideal—is not an attribute of a person of genuine self-esteem because that person does not live through others. The true egotist—a person with an unrealistic, over-inflated view of himself—in fact lives through others and is thus dependent on others to support his sense of self-worth. A power-luster who seeks to dominate others in order to make them conform to his views and values is in fact living through others. But egotism and self-esteem are not the same thing. A true egoist (as opposed to the egotist) does not live through others, and thus does not seek to dominate them. He has no need to. Genuine self-esteem is not a feeling of infallibility. It is not a feeling of superiority. It is simply a feeling of self-confidence in the broadest sense, which cannot be shaken or ”threatened” by disapproval of others.

So I would disagree with Shapiro’s point two above. Otherwise, he’s on to something important about the nature of evil. Points One, three, and four (to which I think Ayn Rand’s concept of Envy/Hatred of the Good for Being the Good is integral)—combined with Platonism—is certainly at the heart of the breeding ground of evil.

* To be fair, Herman agrees with Popper’s assessment, but only up to a point. Herman does believe that Popper underestimates the influence of Rousseau, Nietzsche, and “the racial doctrines springing from Darwin and his disciples,” saying that Popper “missed half the target.” Nonetheless, as Herman explains in his book, Plato formulated the basic idea that truth and knowledge exists in a supernatural realm accessible only by the contemplation of a small handful of wise men, and argued that these wise men should be granted absolute power—”above all [as] legislators and lawmakers”—to regulate society accordingly. This vision certainly fits with Shapiro’s point Three. Whatever Plato’s motivations—”creating the perfect society”, “the first Communist state”, “a blueprint for totalitarianism”, or as “Plato’s answer to a single question, ‘What is justice’”—what dictator, secular or religious, would not relish the role of absolute ruler based on his own vision of what a “good” society should look like? Mark R. Levin in his book Ameritopia (which I reviewed for the Objective Standard) also makes this point about Plato's dark influence on America and Western Civilization.

Related Reading:

Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Parents’ School Choice Rights Shouldn't Depend on Winning Elections

The Newark, New Jersey traditional public schools suck—and parents have been “voting with their feet” in response, moving their children to charter schools whenever possible. But they’ve been politically weak against an establishment backlash against the charters, led by the teachers union.

Now, apparently, the charter parents—faced with the threat of the anti-charter reactionaries, are beginning vote with their ballots, as well. In a NJ Star-Ledger op-ed, In Newark, booming charter schools flex new political muscle, Tom Moran observes:

The politics around charter schools in Newark will never be the same after Tuesday's [school board] election, which saw a new army of charter parents turn out for the first time.

The number of votes cast on Tuesday was roughly double the total only two years ago, an encouraging sign as Newark prepares to resume local control within a few years.

That came after a new political organization in town, the PC2E Action Fund, joined with the schools to register a whopping 3,000 charter parents, enough to swing an election in Newark. The top winner on Tuesday was Kim Gaddy, their candidate.

This is big. Charter schools educate roughly 1 in 3 children in Newark, with many more families banging on the doors to get in. The largest chains - TEAM and North Star -- solidly outperform the traditional schools, giving even the most disadvantaged kids a clear shot at college.

I left these comments:

This is good news because it is another indication of the strength of the parental school choice movement. The market has spoken: Parents want alternatives to the traditional establishment.

But parents’ school choice rights shouldn't have to depend on winning elections. In a completely free market in education, which means no government interference in voluntary parent-educator contract and collaboration aside from child neglect and anti-fraud laws and the like, parents could direct the course they judge most conducive to their own child’s good education by choosing between the multitude of offerings from private education entrepreneurs. There would be no coercive government school monopoly being held together by taxes and compulsory attendance laws.

Short of that, parents can have school choice for their own children through universal school choice policies crafted within the current legal and popular environment, which guarantees every child the means to a K-12 education. One way to achieve this is through universal tax credits that would allow any taxpayer to finance any child’s education up to the limit of the per-pupil public school cost of that child’s home school district—This would mean taxpayers could finance not only their own child but children not their own, such as a grandchild or children from poor households, gifted children, special needs children, etc. Another way would be to simply deposit the per-pupil cost of each child’s public school district into Education Savings Accounts for parents to spend on their own child as they judge best. Financing and administration are separate issues. We can retain the financing guarantee without having education and schools being run by a competition-protected government establishment.

Parents of the worst public school districts need choice the most, so I’m glad to see charter parents “flexing their electoral muscles” in Newark. Ultimately, all parents—not just wealthy parents who can afford both private education and school taxes, and not just parents from failing school districts—should have not just the legal but the practical choice to escape government schools. This is the moral imperative. Education is, after all, fundamentally the moral right and responsibility of parents. Who has any right to override parents? There is no such right, no matter what stupid collectivist slogans the establishment reactionaries trot out.


In a prior article from September 2016, Moran observed:

At last count, 26 percent of Newark students attended charter schools, a number that has spiked in the past five years and is expected to grow to as much as 40 percent.

According to the most respected national study on charter school performance, from Stanford University, Newark's are among the best urban charters in the country. At TEAM Academy's high school, 95 percent of the kids attend college after graduation. TEAM's elementary and high school students beat the state average on reading and math tests.

And TEAM isn't cheating by recruiting the wealthier and whiter kids in Newark: 92 percent of their students are African-American and 88 percent get free or reduced-price lunches.

Newark parents have been on to this for years. More than 10,000 are on waiting lists for charters, equal to nearly a third of those in the traditional system.

That 26% is now almost a third, and growing as demand still far exceeds supply. The lesson here is not that charter schools are the definitive solution to America’s education problems. Charters still need permission from the state to open and continue operating. A fully free education market is the solution. Charters, because they offer more freedom to educators, have proven to be an improvement in terms of education quality, and a step in the right direction in that they give parents a little more freedom and are privately run.

The biggest lesson with charters in Newark and elsewhere is to prove the power of the school choice movement. The appeal of school choice cuts across all income lines. We may not be close to a free market in education when it comes to funding. Most people still support some form of universal tax funding for education. But getting government out of the business of administering the schools is a much more viable political goal. Now more than ever is the time to push for universal school choice through tax credits, as I have proposed in The Objective Standard, or even education savings accounts into which the per-pupil tax cost of each child’s school district is deposited for parents to control. Both would lead to more and more schools being administered by private education entrepreneurs and a very competitive education market open to all parents. Then we could do away with school boards and other forms of central planning—or at least greatly scale back the power of these central planners.

Related Reading: