This article was written by Robert Bortins, CEO of Classical Conversations, in 2017.
Choice. The Oxford Dictionary of the English Language defines it as “an act of selecting between two or more possibilities; the right, freedom or ability to choose.” America has always been a nation of choices: choices go with rights and freedoms, concepts on which America was founded. Not so with many other nations where for centuries slaves and serfs had virtually no rights, no choices. For decades the Soviet Union held elections where only one name appeared on the ballot—a farcical right to “choose” their representatives.
School choice. The right to choose how your child will be educated—public school, nonreligious private school, parochial school, Christian school, boarding school, home school, umbrella school, or a combination thereof. Since you are homeschooling, you obviously believe in school choice. We homeschoolers believe that homeschooling is a right, but 40 years ago, it was considered a privilege by the few who homeschooled under the radar, and was considered illegal by more than a few state governments. Just because homeschooling is now legal in all 50 states and is beginning to develop mainstream status, let us not become complacent. Among the lessons learned from our Founding Fathers is that rights must be continually exercised and vigorously defended, otherwise, they will soon cease to be rights.
Betsy DeVos, confirmed earlier this month as President Trump’s Secretary of Education, former presidential candidate Jeb Bush and President Reagan’s Education Secretary William Bennett, all are outspoken supporters of School Choice, but they are also strong supporters of charter schools, school vouchers and government-funded scholarships. These would not be appropriate uses of federal funding.
Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, and I are both outspoken supporters of school choice, as evidenced by our support for National School Choice Week, but we are also strong opponents of school vouchers and government-funded scholarships targeted at the homeschooling community. We are concerned these programs would ultimately come with strings attached that would erode the independence of the individual home school.
I’ve always said, “with the shekels come the shackles.” When the government funds private enterprise, it inevitably must regulate it. Homeschool families have proven time and time again they do not need government intervention.
And Michael Farris agrees. He said recently, “HSLDA opposes vouchers as they are not a free hand-out from the government and will regulate parental freedoms. Our government has the responsibility to spend our money frugally. For the government to ‘just give’ vouchers to homeschoolers would be irresponsible and pointless.”
U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater prophetically coined a phrase in 1958 while opposing the National Defense Education Act. He said, “This bill and the foregoing remarks of the majority remind me of an old Arabian proverb: ‘If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.’ If adopted, the legislation will mark the inception of aid, supervision and ultimately control of education in this country by the federal authorities.”
In terms of public education, the federal camel has gotten its whole body inside the tent that is constitutionally reserved for the states. Let’s not allow the federal camel to get his nose into the homeschooling tent. Join Classical Conversations in supporting school choice but not the government funding for homeschooling that would inevitably come with strings attached.