Two plus one equals one. No, it’s not the new math concocted by some education theorist; it is how parents of children who attend independent schools are treated by the state and the municipalities where they live. Homeowners with children aged 5-18 pay local school taxes, the state income tax, and tuition at a parochial or nonsectarian independent school. In other words, parents pay two taxes and tuition to educate one child (or more), hence two plus one equals one.
Where o’ where is the justice in the state forcing parents of children in nonpublic schools, childless couples and singles to pay for the education of other children? And this is the real issue that Governor Christie, the NJEA, editorial writers and others are unwilling to discuss. Why? Because the vast majority of the American people–across the political spectrum, including so-called conservatives who claim to want “smaller government”–have accepted the premise that education is a government–collective– responsibility.
So while Tea Party activists decry Obama’s “socialism,” most undoubtedly support unequivocally socialism in their own neighborhoods, government schools.
But the proponents of socialized education have never satisfactorily answered the fundamental question, why is education a government responsibility?
Yes, the New Jersey State Constitution calls “for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools…(Article VIII, Section IV, emphasis added.) However, in New Jersey we do not have a “system” of free public schools. We have locally run schools funded by school property taxes, the state income tax, and a one half cent sales tax dedicated to property tax relief, just like the income tax.
(In Governor Christie’s 2011 budget state aid is zero for about 60 school districts and close to zero for scores of other school districts, demonstrating once again that the state income tax was one of the worst mandates ever ordered by the New Jersey Supreme Court more than three decades ago. The court’s abuse of its power should be challenged by Christie so he can have a legacy for current and future governors to emulate, standing up to an “activist court.” Suburban taxpayers have to pay for their schools and schools in other parts of the state. In short, the state income is just another redistribution program.)
If the state government followed the constitution there would be no school property taxes but one state tax to fund public education, and all education decisions would come from Trenton administered by local school officials who would be paid by the state. The current public school structure is a Rube Goldbergesque contraption funded by local and state taxes and staffed by locally hired teachers and administrators who also have to comply with the mandates from Trenton and the federal government. Yuk! Is this anyway to educate children in a cost effective manner? To ask the question is to answer it.
But the constitution begs the question: why should education be provided by any government entity in the first place?
The short answer as historians and others have discovered is to “mold” young people into becoming good citizens supporting the state (see Sheldon Richman’s classic Separating School and State). Public schools historically have had to do more about indoctrination than education. And the indoctrination has not stopped, especially when it comes to promoting collectivism, human caused climate change, and a whole host of politically correct issues.
If war is too important to be left to the generals, then education is too important to be decided by politicians. As long as education is a political football, costs will increase, student performance in many districts will be marginal at best, and parents, childless couples and singles will continue to be plundered by the state and municipalities.
Governor Christie can seize the moment and lay out a new education paradigm that would be “revolutionary.” It is called education freedom. Amending the state constitution to remove the through and efficient clause, the state income tax and everything else related to state involvement in local matters would be a breath of fresh air from an establishment politician.
Does Christie have what is takes to be freedom fighter or he will he be just another defender of the status quo?