Since 2000, New York City residents have observed the shut-down of 91 Catholic schools. These closures are typically the result of parents’ inability to pay tuition costs. This presents not only a problem to the would-be students, but to the public-at-large. The civic benefits provided through a Catholic education amount to a public good. Graduation rates for Catholic schools top those of public institutions, propelling more students to college, creating future community leaders. A robust civil society such as this is contingent upon strong educational institutions, for which it is critical to incentivize the public to invest.
The Education Investment Tax Credit bill would have curtailed this problem by providing a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for each charitable donation to any private or parochial school scholarship fund, including Protestant and Jewish institutions. However, the mandate perished in the back room of the state legislature, despite support from both parties as summer recess commenced. The use of an incentive structure would have provided up to $300 million to the neediest children in the state of New York. Half of this funding would have been designated to donations to public schools for the arts, music, and athletics so as to eliminate “pay-to-play” costs to parents.
This tax credit would not only have been an investment in the future of at-risk students, but an investment toward a community’s future. In this respect, New York residents would be incentivized to endow education philanthropy, in exchange for lower taxes. Individuals would have the autonomy to support private or parochial institutions of their choosing, empowering the individual to decide what is the best use of their assets. (more…)
Critics of homeschooling have long maintained that it fails to inculcate students with the civic virtues necessary to maintain our republican form of democracy. But a new study finds that when it comes to willingness to extend basic civil liberties to people who hold views with which one disagrees, homeschooled students are more tolerant than their peers:
Scholar Albert Cheng’s just-published fascinating and provocative study provides one of the first solid portions of empirical evidence about whether the homeschooled become more or less politically intolerant than others. The researcher’s purpose was to compare college students from different school types – public school, private school, and homeschool – by analyzing political tolerance outcomes. That is, are students from any particular school background more or less politically tolerant than others? Political tolerance is “… defined as the willingness to extend basic civil liberties to political or social groups that hold views with which one disagrees” (p. 49).
Cheng used an instrument (e.g., a questionnaire) called the “content-controlled political tolerance scale.” In its first of two parts, the “… scale provides the respondent with a list of popular social and political groups, such as Republicans, gay-rights activists, or fundamentalist Christians. The respondent is asked to select the group with beliefs that he opposes the most … The second part of the political tolerance scale measures the respondent’s willingness to extend basic civil liberties to members of his least-liked group” (p. 55). Participants were asked to respond to items such as the following:
1. “The government should be able to tap the phones of [the least-liked group].”
2. “Books that are written by members of the [the least-liked group] should be banned from the public library.”
3. “I would allow members of [the least-liked group] to live in my neighborhood.” (p. 60)
With this scale, he studied students at a private university in the western United States. These students came from a variety of schooling and racial/ethnic backgrounds.
The study found that “those [college students] with more exposure to homeschooling relative to public schooling tend to be more politically tolerant.”
However misguided their aims, there was one a time when progressives worked to protect the welfare and improve the lot of the individual. Today, the goal of many progressives is to protect the welfare and improve the lot of public bureaucracies. A prime — and stunningly inane — example of this tendency is found Allison Benedikt’s “manifesto” in Slate titled, “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person“:
You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murderer bad—but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad. So, pretty bad.
I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good. (Yes, rich people might cluster. But rich people will always find a way to game the system: That shouldn’t be an argument against an all-in approach to public education any more than it is a case against single-payer health care.)
Notice that she is willing to sacrifice the educations of children today — and generations of children for an indefinite time in the future — so that the public school system can be saved. Whereas public schools once existed to educate children, they now exist to justify their own existence (and the existence of teacher’s unions). Here’s how Benedikt thinks it should work:
“Public education is the fount of most problems in the United States, not simply based on content, but also on structure,” says Thomas Purifoy. “Simply put: it is economically impossible for American public education to be successful in the long-run (or the short-run, for that matter).” Purifoy offers three lessons centralized public education can learn from the free market economy of home education:
Instead of getting more centralized, educational and curricular control should be pushed down to the lowest possible level (the school and the teacher herself, with significant parental control). This would require booting out the unions (that efficient perpetuator of educational mediocrity), breaking our huge schools apart and creating a whole new market-based model of education, where size/content matches local market needs, curriculum and methods are in the hands of parents/teachers, etc.. It would also require public schools to compete with each other for students (who would likely use vouchers – although when I say this, it is a concession to a faulty principle, since vouchers are just another form of redistribution of wealth, albeit far superior to the current setup.)
What is my proof for this? Consider one fact: there are hundreds of thousands mothers who have no educational degrees, no educational backgrounds, and almost no educational experience, who spend far less time educating their children than their public school counterparts, yet their kids consistently outperform the vast majority of public school students in the nation year after year.
President Barack Obama, during a recent trip to Northern Ireland, decried the segregation of denominational churches and schools:
Issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it.
If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear and resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.
Private schools are for the privileged and those willing to pay high costs for education; everyone else attends public school or seeks alternate options: this is the accepted wisdom. In the United States, the vast majority of students at the primary and secondary level attend public school, funded by the government.
When considering education in the developing world, we may hold fast to this thinking, believing that for those in severely impoverished areas, private education is an unrealistic and scarce option, leaving the poor with public school or no education at all.
Indeed, this was the opinion held by James Tooley, a Professor of Education Policy at Newcastle University, until he experienced the landscape firsthand, traveling throughout the developing world, conducting research on educational systems in poor and prosperous areas, documenting numerous case studies, and reporting findings that prove the prevalence of low-cost private schools in poor areas.
In an Education Next article, Tooley discusses his observations and unmasks two common myths associated with education for the poor.
Myth #1: Private Education for the Poor Does Not Exist
We sometimes treat “the poor” as if they were somehow uniquely incapable of rising out of poverty without our assistance. We often assume, if we don’t provide them with everything they need, including education, that no one will. Yet if we look closely (and with a bit more humility), we see indigenous solutions everywhere. (more…)