Pastor Toby's Blog
Pastor Toby's Blog
Having Two Legs: Real School Choice & Conservative Chimpanzees

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Real School Choice & Conservative Chimpanzees



Joe Biden recently got a bunch of Republicans to do what Democrats have been trying to do for decades: get them to embrace socialism. Ok, most Republicans are soft-socialists nowadays anyway, but Sleepy Joe got most of the Republican side of Congress to stand up and cheer for socialism during his recent State of the Union address. He got them to boo his accusation that they weren’t true blue socialists, and then when he asked if they were in, they stood up and cheered. Biden played them like a drum, and the next day CNN had Republican representatives doubling and tripling down on it. It was masterful, if it wasn’t so sad. 


Of course the topic was Social Security and whether the Federal Government should take care of our parents and grandparents. Republicans are idiots. Republicans are fools. There was a masterful opportunity to take and they missed it. They took the bait. They bowed and scraped at the altar of the Almighty Sugar Daddy State, almost as if they had already completely forgotten about 2020. It would have been a glorious moment for conservatives to stand up and speak clearly into the microphone. How many of our parents and grandparents died alone in nursing homes? How many were locked down, isolated, deprived of personal care, familial affection, and honor? Don’t you understand that our twisted nursing home culture is a direct result of looking to the state to take care of our parents and grandparents? 


Yes, we absolutely want to sunset Social Security. Absolutely. All day long, every day of the week. Is there no conservative willing to stand up for our parents and grandparents, who will insist that everything the Federal government does that is outside of its God-ordained assignment is inefficient, cumbersome, and ultimately sucks at whatever it is they are trying to do? All you need to do is go down to your local DMV. OK, how about the IRS? Biden had the audacity to claim that as the (apparently) new CEO of every major industry in America he was ordering sweeping changes, prohibiting various fees and surcharges, particularly for the airline industry, including for the privilege of having your family sit together. Biden is tired, he says, of treating children like baggage. But of course if a mother wanted to treat one of her more challenging children like baggage, why couldn’t she? I mean, an unborn child requires a whole lot of energy and care, and with Biden’s help, he believes she ought to be able to go down to the local Planned Parenthood (and for a small fee), unload that so-called “baggage.”


Where was I? Sorry, I got a bit distracted. But the point is that the same goons who can’t tell the difference between baggage and children want to take care of your elderly parents and grandparents, and the whole Republican side of congress stood up and cheered, like a bunch of chimpanzees clapping for bananas. 


Arizona ESAs & My Vigorous Misgivings

Ok, but here’s the real point of this post: a whole bunch of conservatives are doing the same thing with “school choice” and Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs). I posted a lengthy thread last week after reading through the Arizona ESA program which is currently being heralded by many conservatives and school choice advocates as the “model” legislation. But the really short version can be summarized by the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar in Star Wars: “It’s a trap!” 


But I don’t merely want to repeat what I said previously about all my misgivings. All those misgivings are still alive and well and they’ve even grown a third eye and developed a vigorous twitch. But what I want to do is quickly review my findings from the Arizona ESA legislation and then bring this thing in for a landing with a plea for conservatives to see a really glorious opportunity in the “school choice” discussion if only we don’t act like most of our Republican leaders in congress, so long as we don’t bark and clap like a seal simply because they say some conservative-ish sounding words. Don’t get sucked into embracing more socialism by Joe Biden or his Republican colleagues. Yeah, as the kids like to say, that was a pretty sick burn. 


So first, my findings: While the Arizona ESA program claims that “each student’s funding follows the student,” the legislation only actually allows for $6,500 of the student’s funding to follow the student. I might have a tiny ounce of hope that this was at least moving in the right direction, except that more than $11,000 is spent by the state and local taxpayers on each public school student, and that doesn’t count all federal dollars on top of that, all of which continue going to the government schools. For every student that opts into the Arizona ESA program, over $600 additional dollars are immediately added back to the public school that they left, even though that student no longer attends that school. So tips galore. And if that weren’t enough, the fact sheet defending the Arizona ESAs boasts: “In fact, the rapid growth in Arizona’s ESA program has tracked closely with major increases in per pupil funding for public schools over the past decade…” As proof of that trajectory continuing, the fact sheet assures us that a companion bill has been introduced in the Arizona legislature to add $400 million additional funds to public schools, designated for all public school districts and charter schools.


Pause here for just a moment for me to make a comment about conservatives and rhetoric. When I posted these findings on Facebook, a friend from another state pushed back a bit about my Debby-downer appraisal of the program and linked to several conservative sites praising the Arizona legislation. I cheerfully clicked on the link, and the first sentence I read was this: “First, the left told us that school choice would decimate the funding of public education. But then, Arizona passed the nation’s first universal education savings account (ESA) program last year, and funding for the state’s public schools still went up nearly a billion dollars even as tens of thousands of kids have joined the ESA program.” 


Now regardless of the exact details of the ESA program or where the funding is coming from, you just lost me. This website is a Republican clapping like a seal for Joe Biden socialism. At the very least, this website doesn’t understand what conservatives actually want. I don’t want to increase funding for government schools. I want to decrease funding for government schools. I want to dismantle government schools. I want to see them closed down. What’s the word I’m looking for? Ah right, I want to see government schools sunset.


Why? Because I’m not a communist. 


I’m not sure how to break this to you, but one of the central tenets of Marxism in the Communist Manifesto is “Free education for all children in public schools.” And of course by “free” Marx meant “pounded out of your flesh in taxes whether you use them or not.” 


Now, I’m not a communist so that is also why I am not a revolutionary, and I would be happy to slowly sunset public education. I would be happy to nickel and dime the damn thing to death. But what I don’t want to do is to take incremental steps to invigorate, strengthen, and expand government education corruption and power. When some of my more revolutionary friends wondered why I’m willing to end abortion incrementally but not public education, I replied: “I actually would support true incremental steps toward school choice, but if a 15wk abortion ban gave $400mil to Planned Parenthood, I would oppose it for the same reason.” You don’t dismantle something by giving it more money. 


When I asked my friend about this massive increase in spending on education, the reply said that this represents the ordinary increases in education budgets, which might be true, but if so, I’m still against that. If an educational system has fewer students, they should have fewer dollars, not more. The incentives here are perverse. Less for more? That isn’t capitalism. That isn’t a free market. And ultimately all that money has to come from taxes. If this continues, tax payers could find themselves paying the same amount of money as before (or more) even with the $6500 dollar ESA boost. 


Ok, back to the Arizona ESA program. 


Not only is millions and perhaps a billion more dollars in public school funding a massive increase in the government school budget and funding in Arizona, the program is also the beginning of government oversight of private schools and homeschooling. The text of the Arizona ESA expansion bill explicitly requires that the curriculum ESAs are spent on must be approved by the Arizona department of education. Perhaps this approval will begin as something relatively benign, but if you think it’s going to stay that way, you haven’t been paying attention. Next, a “qualified school” includes your standard government “non-discrimination” clause, currently specifying race, color, or national origin. But if you don’t think that will soon include sexual orientation, sexual identity, and puppy-lovers, I’ve got a beachfront property in Kansas to sell you. 


I firmly believe in school choice, and I also believe that our actual education dollars should follow the students, but I’m not aware of any “school choice” program that is honestly allowing the actual student funding to follow the student wherever their parents choose to send them to school. Of course, it should be remembered that tax dollars actually belong to the tax payers, and if we’re talking about money for education, real school choice would include the freedom not to pay taxes for schools we don’t use. I know this is a really radical notion, but I think it’s a winning point: people shouldn’t be forced to pay for goods and services they don’t use. Parents shouldn’t be forced to pay for schools they have decided are not best for their children. We don’t force parents to send checks to certain doctors and medical providers, regardless of where they receive their medical care. Why would we do that with education? The name of this is socialism.  


At the very least, if we cannot completely opt out (monetarily) of schools that we have decided are not best for our children, how about tax credits that simply refund our real tax dollars that we didn’t actually use on government schools? I don’t think they should have taken our money for a service we don’t use in the first place, but I would certainly be OK with at least getting that money back. That would seem to me to be an incremental step in the right direction. 


All of this demonstrates that government education is a mafia with a monopoly using our tax-payer dollars to rig the system and make it more difficult for hard working Americans to provide the education they believe is best for their kids. Perhaps the one silver lining in all of this is simply the indication that government school mobsters can be bought off. I would urge somebody with connections to broker a deal with some big tech company (where you at Elon?), offering to infuse some state coffers with bazillions of dollars in exchange for two things: a number of seats on the state board of education and the real freedom of choice for parents to completely opt out of the system: keeping their tax dollars and spending their money on whatever educational program they desire. 


Thus far my diatribe on Twitter, closing with “In the meantime, remember that everything the government funds is inefficient, corrupt, has strings attached, and ultimately goes woke and bad.”


Now I really don’t mean this post as merely a whine-session, and I know there are many well-meaning conservatives (that are not Chimpanzees) that are simply interested in seeing the government monopoly broken. And count me as a reasonable incrementalist. I don’t need a perfect bill to support. I’m no perfectionist. I’m a reformer; not a revolutionary. All I need is a bill that actually nudges us in the direction of real school choice, real educational freedom, and a truly free market for education. 



So I’ll end here simply with a plea for conservative rhetoric. I think we really do have an important opportunity right in front of us with the school choice discussion. And I am not at all calling for conservatives to be purists who can’t be pleased with any compromise. But we also need to have a very clear idea of what we are aiming for. If we are not aiming for true educational freedom, true school choice, which means parents having the true freedom to use their own money to pay for whatever education they deem best for their children, then we will not know which direction we’re going or even if we’re making any progress at all. When you have no destination in mind, anywhere seems like progress.  


I think there’s a glorious opportunity for real progress in terms of practical policies, and I think with that opportunity is an opportunity to change the conversation. Let’s talk about real educational choice and freedom. Let’s talk about the sovereignty of parents over the educational choices of their children. Virginia Governor Youngkin was arguably elected partially on the steam of the claims of educational fascists who claimed that the experts and school boards and departments of education trumped parents, especially in the wake of a transgender bathroom assault. Do you see that opening? They are cramming CRT and sexual confusion down the throats of preschoolers. If Christian and conservative parents stand up and say enough is enough, we can make a difference. But the goal needs to be clear: we are not socialists; we are not communists. 


We believe in freedom of choice, parental sovereignty, and we refuse to be charged for an education system that hates us and hates our values. We want to keep our hard earned money and spend it on the education that we believe is best for our children. We want a level playing field, a truly free market for education, with schools competing without government intrusion, without the government putting its fingers on the scales. Let’s change the conversation. Let’s brainstorm. Let’s invite our brightest minds and legislators together, and let’s craft something better. Let’s craft something that is actually moving towards freedom. And I’m not just saying this, I’m having conversations with key players to do this very thing, and I hope to have more to share on this very soon.  


Read it all for yourself: