What is the long run objective?  Each family works to prepare the next generation.  From the time they are born, each parent has the opportunity to mold the character of the children he and she brings into the world. As Christian parents, we prepare our children to strive to enter heaven’s narrow door (Luke 13).  As the Apostle Paul admonished us, God requires parents to take responsibility for instructing their children.

Ephesians 6:4 (Today’s New International Version)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

To survive the devil’s schemes, parents help their children “put on the full armor of God” (see Ephesians 6:10-20). Unfortunately, instead of seeing to that their children receive a proper education, most parents leave the responsibility to government.   That has proven to be a hideous mistake. Why is that so? Consider how we manage our public school system.  Instead of our schools being a purely local institutions easily influenced and controlled by parents, we have created a complex maze of bureaucracy.  While it is true that our local School Boards run our schools, funding comes from the Federal Government, the Virginia Commonwealth, and the Prince William County government.  Thus our School Boards serve four masters: politicians in Washington, DC; politicians in Richmond, VA; local politicians, and, incidentally, the voters in Prince William County and Manassas.   That is a recipe for confusion and excessive administrative overhead.

Consider this excerpt from To save children, cut education.

The vaunted No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program dramatically accelerated federal spending on education, but the federal Office of Management and Budget estimates that NCLB has added nearly 6.7 million hours to state and local authorities’ time in completing forms and filing paperwork. Also, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, “High school graduates in the class of 2009 have experienced NCLB’s test-driven approach to ‘school reform’ since they were in fifth grade. Yet, they are not better prepared for college or the workforce, based on ACT or SAT scores.”

In fact, according to a 2007 White House report, the federal department’s “program for every problem” approach has led to “hundreds of education programs spread across 39 federal agencies at a cost of $120 billion a year.”

The problem is compounded by the tremendous waste inherent in Education’s budget. Last year, did we really need to spend $8.7 million on the Historic Whaling and Trade Partners Program or $5.8 million on the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate, “for the planning and design of a building and (potential) support for an endowment?” How about teaching Tommy to read?

The federal student aid program is also a serious failure. As noted by former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, “Federal student aid is crying out for reform. The system is redundant, it’s Byzantine, and it’s broken. In fact, it’s often more difficult for students to get aid than it is for bad actors to game the system.”

Ironically, we are so poorly educated that most of us accept the role of the Federal Government in education without a fuss, but there is no constitutional role whatsoever for the Federal Government in education (Can you find it in the Constitution?).  To fund the Department of Education, our elected Federal officials must violate their oath of office.

What are the ramifications for such a ridiculous system of government-run education?  The education of children:

  • becomes the captive of organized special interests.

    special interest
    a body of persons, corporation, or industry that seeks or receives benefits or privileged treatment, esp. through legislation.

  • lacks a coherent strategy
  • is incapable of instilling proper values in children (i.e., secular).

Captivated By the Special Interests

Our public school system is an unnecessarily complex system with no one truly in charge.  That is made to order for organized special interests such as teacher’s unions.  By constantly campaigning at the Federal, state, and local levels, special interests can promote spending increases made to order.  With no one in clearly charge, there is little accountability.  Thus, voters cannot figure out who to blame.  

The Federal government taxes us, the state government taxes, and the local government taxes us.  The School Board (with spending regulations and instructions attached by each taxation authority) spends our money.  Then each tax or spend authority bemoans the results.  All righteously disclaim responsibility.

No Coherent Education Strategy

We have three different bureaucracies in funding our public school system and a fourth bureaucracy in charge of “running” it.  If a politician said they were planning such a system, we would call that politician an idiot and refuse to vote for that fool.  Nonetheless, that is exactly the system we have allowed our political leadership to foist upon us.

Our schools use to be a local concerns funded by property taxes and run by county and city governments.  How did they gain greater state government involvement?  State leaders:

  • promised to fix failing schools (When politicians cannot do their job, they do someone else’s job.).
  • proclaimed the value of uniform regulation (Don’t busybodies love to insist that others do things their way?).
  • provided increased funding (Won’t special interests such as teachers unions always see the value of another funding pool?).

What was the end result?   We threw more money at the problem of education.  So as time passed and problems got worse the Federal Government stepped boldly into the fray.  Without worrying over such trivia as constitutional authority, Federal leaders:

  • promised to fix failing schools (When politicians cannot do their job, they do someone else’s job.).
  • proclaimed the value of uniform regulation (Don’t busybodies love to insist that others do things their way?).
  • provided increased funding (Won’t special interests such as teachers unions always see the value of another funding pool?).

Incapable of Instilling the Right Values in Children

With four bureaucracies involved, how do parents get their children’s school help them to instill the right values in their children?  Politicians, particularly Federal politicians, do not want to offend anyone.  So what values will politicians and their bureaucrats teach children?

  • Where do they start?  Is God important?  Are ethics and morality founded in religion or derived purely in logic?
  • Are all cultural beliefs equal?  Are Christian societies superior because Christianity teaches superior values?
  • Whose ideas do politicians adopt with respect to sex education?  
  • When does the right to life become sacred?
  • Do politicians teach children pacifism or the belief that sometimes war can be for a just cause?
  • Is this a Christian nation or a nation founded in secularism?
  • Is morality situational or founded in absolute truths?

Such questions are endless, and politicians and bureaucrats have no special answers.   So they avoid and gloss over such problems.  That, perhaps, explains why various attempts at character education have met with so little success.  Nonetheless, our children spend hours every day in school.  School is the place where our children most interact with their peers and learn much about the difference between right and wrong.  Thus, parents have an imperative to see to it that educators they choose take an active and proper role in instilling the right values their children.

Focusing On the Objective

Should any parent be required to entrust their child’s heart and soul to a government program designed by nameless bureaucrats? Consider the principles promoted by the Prince William-Manassas Family Alliance and The Family Foundation.

  • LIFE: Human life, from fertilization to natural death, is sacred, and the right to life is fundamental to all other rights.
  • MARRIAGE: Marriage, as the union between one man and one woman, is an institution of God and a foundation of civil society.
  • PARENTAL AUTHORITY: Parents are ultimately responsible for the care and well-being of their children and therefore should be free from intrusive government involvement.
  • CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT: The role and jurisdiction of government is clearly prescribed by our constitution and consequently should be restrained from excessive involvement in the lives of citizens.
  • RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: the right of conscience, and the right practice faith according to personal beliefs is sacred and should not be infringed or denied.

Without real reform of our educational system, we cannot hope for long run success in promoting these principles.   We need the people who educate our children to help us.  Yet because of its sheer incompetence, and because of its susceptibility to conniving special interest groups, the public education system is too prone to undermine our efforts. That is why we must advocate school choice.

Tom Salmon

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