In Chapter 13 of his book, Saving FreedomSenator Jim Demint offers a plan to save freedom. He begins with a plan to reform our education system. Why? The first and most important reason he derives from the need to educate children.

Because all the principles of freedom revolve around the values and capabilities of individuals, the development and education of children are the most fundamental goals of a free society. Education is not a responsibility that can or should be delegated to the government.

Faith, virtue, and morality are essential elements of the character of individuals. Our government cannot instill these characteristics into our children. Americans should, therefore, demand the freedom to teach religious concepts and to apply the values derived from faith in non-government schools, private businesses, voluntary organizations, and churches. Freedom of speech must include teaching and saying that some things are right and some things are wrong based upon religious convictions and common sense. We cannot allow our government to promote immoral destructive behavior or to classify religion-based moral opinions as “hate speech.” (page 238)

A second reason is that government-run education just ain’t workin.

American taxpayers spend approximately $550 billion a year on K-12 education, more than any other government program….and more per child than any other country spends on education. Taxpayers also fund another $375 billion for higher education every year. Yet American graduates are losing ground to students in almost every industrialized nation. (page 239)

Thus, Demint advocates education choice, and he is one of the sponsors of the “A-PLUS” Education Act, a bill that if passed “would give states more flexibility to improve their schools without federal interference.” What Demint emphasizes in his book, however, is that we do not have to wait for Washington to act.

A-PLUS will require congressional action, but we do not have to wait for federal legislation or court rulings to expand education choices. The 2002 Supreme Court decision, Zelman v. Simmon-Harris, confirmed that states have the right to provide vouchers for students to attend nongovernment schools. This landmark decision makes a clear distinction between “public education” and “government schools.” Public education does not have to mean government-run, politically managed schools.

The Zelman decision means governors and state legislators now have the freedom to provide vouchers or tax credits for children to attend any school their parents choose–government, private, or religious. Considering most states now spend more than $10,000 per year for every child in government schools, even a $5000 scholarship to independent schools would stimulate the development of a wide range of new school choices. Innovation would flourish as investors, entrepreneurs, and churches rushed to win market share from parents seeking better education opportunities for their children.

Therefore, the solution is up to you and me. We can just hand our tax dollars over to politicians. We can hope against common sense and experience that those politicians will spend our money wisely, or we can put parents back in charge of the education of their own children.

–Tom Salmon

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