Ben DeGrow Seeks Education Reform

Ben DeGrow, the Independence Institute’s top education reformer, discusses opting out of union dues. He also reviews the impact of the three recent documentaries on education, “The Cartel,” “The Lottery,” and “Waiting for Superman” (which he has seen since granting this interview).

DeGrow said the films are “definitely creating a greater awareness of the problems surrounding education. The problem is whether it will create the political will for policy makers to actually implement real, lasting solutions, things that begin with parental choice, school vouchers, and true market-based accountability… rather than the same old status quo.”

Tancredo On Education

I caught up with Tom Tancredo after his August 4 appearance at Liberty On the Rocks to ask him about his first signature issue: education.

Check back soon for more videos of Tancredo.



Brian S. August 10, 2010 at 9:34 PM
Interesting observation that some parents do not want the choice and responsibility to choose a school for their child. Scary.

Re. charter schools, be careful. They threaten truly private schools in a similar way that vouchers can. Check out this Cato blog post:
“Charters Kill Private Schools and Add to Taxpayer Burden”:

Schools Deal with the Devil

WTVD out of North Carolina posted an interesting story illustrating how tax-funded schools deal with the devil.

Tieanna Trough, a student at Gray’s Creek High School, “refused to write an essay on making a deal with the Devil… Trough says when the teacher told students to write an essay on how they would sell their souls — or what trade they would make with the Devil — she refused, saying that compromised her Christian values and her parents agreed.”

The girl’s mother complained, “We can’t allow God into the classrooms, but yet they are going to allow the Devil in the classroom.”

The mother “says an alternate assignment was also unacceptable, so they complained to school officials.” Unfortunately, the report does not specify the nature of the “alternate assignment.” Finally the school, the student, and her family agreed on an appropriate topic: “how and why money is important.” (How that is any more Christian remains a mystery to me, given the New Testament’s antipathy toward material wealth.)

Clearly both sides were being a little silly here. The student could have used the assignment to write a work of fiction illustrating the harm that comes with making a deal with the devil (which she obviously takes as something more than frightful myth). The teacher, on the other hand, could have promptly made alternative arrangements with the student.

Nevertheless, the story does illustrate a deeper problem with tax-funded schools. The student’s mother has a legitimate complaint: why is it okay for tax funds to promote devil-dealing but not Christianity? To extend the argument, why is it okay to force people to fund the teaching of evolution but not creationism? The “separation of church and state” rules out the latter, but why is the former permitted?

If schools were voluntarily funded, policy would be set by the owners of the school in association with the funders and the students. If the student’s parents didn’t like the policy, they would be free to withdraw their daughter — and their funds — and send them elsewhere. Notably, this would give schools a strong incentive to make reasonable accommodations. (Some schools would cater to different world views; I’d personally favor a school that focused on secular education but that accommodated religious students.)

In the case of Gray’s Creek, however, the girl’s parents are forced the finance the school whether their daughter attends the school or not. Talk about a deal with the devil.

CO Constitution Requires Tax-Funded Schools Three Months Per Year

The Colorado Supreme Court is totally out of control. As Clear the Bench details, the court’s latest outrage is to allow a legal suit to force taxpayers to send more of their hard-earned money to government schools.

As Vincent Carroll summarizes, the suit would “undermine democracy and the separation of powers in Colorado.”

The Denver Post’s Tim Hoover nicely reviews the case. He writes, “Kathy Gebhardt, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the school-funding suit, said… courts would have to determine whether the right to a ‘thorough and uniform’ education funding system outweighs the right of citizens to vote on taxes.”

But why should the courts get to establish what constitutes a “thorough and uniform” education? As Carroll and others note, the state’s Constitution explicitly grants funding authority to the general assembly.

However, there is another telling line in the same provision that indicates what the document’s authors thought consistent with a “thorough and uniform” education: the line requiring schools “at least three months in each year.” Obviously, dramatically less tax spending on education is consistent with this part of the Constitution.

Here is the entire bit from Article IX:

Section 2. Establishment and maintenance of public schools.

The general assembly shall, as soon as practicable, provide for the establishment and maintenance of a thorough and uniform system of free public schools throughout the state, wherein all residents of the state, between the ages of six and twenty-one years, may be educated gratuitously. One or more public schools shall be maintained in each school district within the state, at least three months in each year; any school district failing to have such school shall not be entitled to receive any portion of the school fund for that year.

No Tax Funds for Religious Schools

David Card, “president of Escuela de Guadalupe, an independent Catholic, dual-language school in northwest Denver,” made a series of astounding comments in an article for the Denver Post today.

Card argues that some religious schools “are effective in developing Colorado standards-based academic proficiency in subjects like math, reading and science, and in producing high school graduates.” No doubt. But then Card adds, “Clearly, the state has an interest in this.”

Clearly, Card has lost his faculties. The government’s job is to protect people’s rights, not dictate education policy for private schools. Many parents flee to private schools precisely to get away from political interference. Card would extend that interference to schools that are currently private.

Card argues that the state — i.e., politicians — should finance religious schools (presumably including his own). He pretends that politicians can force other Coloradans to finance only “non-sectarian efforts” by religious schools. The division is impossible. A religious school of necessity infuses its entire program with its ideological premises.

I left the following comments online:

“No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship, religious sect or denomination against his consent.” — Colorado Constitution, Article II, Section 4

Forcing a person to finance a religious institution, against his will, violates his freedom of conscience and right to property. Moreover, no conscientious religious school would willingly accept the political interference that inevitably follows political funding.