Letters to the Editor

Readers write about funding for public schools.

Who should pay taxes for public education?

In response to Thomas Hunt and James Carper's Oct. 25 Opinion piece, "Don't make public schools a state church": Taxes to support public education are a societal obligation, not a parental responsibility.

There are citizens without children who pay to support public education whether or not they agree with educational policy or practice.

Parents who choose an alternative to public education do not gain the right not to pay for public education. It doesn't take much imagination to see where a "pick and choose" attitude toward taxes could lead.

Gretchen Hays
Los Angeles

Regarding Professors Hunt and Carper's Oct. 25 Opinion piece on education, I couldn't agree more. I am 63 years old, and I'm child-free by choice. But I'm told I must pay taxes for the "common good." I'm considered "selfish" and "undemocratic" because I vote against school-tax hikes, etc. If parents who "should not have to pay twice as the price of liberty of conscience" should get a break, I think I should get a break by not having to pay once for children that I chose not to have, who have put zero burden on the school system.

Brandy Herbert
Conifer, Colo.

Government schools violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution for one very simple reason: Education, in every instance, is based on a religion. This is why our Founding Fathers gave government no authority in the education of children. With the advent of compulsory education, Robert Lewis Dabney correctly prophesied that education would become the tool of government; in short, children have become pawns in a game that produces little in the way of literate, well-educated children.

And as Dabney correctly prophesied, while the religion of government schools in the mid-1800s would be Christianity, the day would come when Christianity would be replaced. That happened in 1963 when prayer was barred in schools, effecting the replacement of Christianity with another religion: humanism or New Age.

As for taxes, no parent, no individual, should be forced to pay for a system of education based on a state-established religion they may find abhorrent. To do so is not only unconscionable but also unconstitutional.

No one benefits from government schools as their agenda is not to produce an intelligent, well-educated child but to, in the words of government publications, produce a "world class worker." Chattel, no better than a cow.

Lynn M. Stuter
Nine Mile Falls, Wash

I went to Catholic school for nine years, and that was a period in which my parents paid state taxes toward public schools without reaping the benefits of such institutions.

At present, I must say that I think establishing a pay-if-you-use-it system of taxation for public school funds would be disastrous. At present, it would seem, so many schools in our country are poorly managed or underfunded that removing the support of state tax dollars would cripple them even further.

Let us reform public schools, get them up to code, and only then should we allow those who pursue private-sector education (or home schooling) to opt out of taxation.

Perhaps, at such a stage, there could even be an incentive to "donate" funds to public schools, which would guarantee that not quite so much of the funding would be lost.

Zac Dettwyler
Fairfax, Va.

Hunt and Carper imply that there's some sort of movement to deprive parents of the opportunity to home-school their children. I've never seen or heard any evidence to support that. The only current "opposition" to home-schooling the authors can name are accusations of "being selfish" and "undemocratic." Paying taxes for public schools contributes to an educated public, from which home-schooled children also benefit. There are innumerable ways that we as taxpayers pay for things that don't directly benefit us (e.g., foreign aid, basic research). Home-schoolers should pay taxes along with the rest of us; it's their choice to leave public schools. It is strange that as academics Hunt and Carper do not reference any actual case or report on persecution of home-schoolers. Instead they reference cases where religious organizations have succeeded in moving education away from governmental oversight. If they're trying to make a case that the government is stifling education outside public schools, they're not doing a good job.

Eugene Wu
Durham, N.C.

In response to Thomas Hunt and James Carper's Oct. 25 Opinion piece: I would contend that America's public school system and its defenders are not worried about the dissent of individuals based on religious beliefs, but rather the economic segregation that private schools tend to engender.

Educating all Americans is as important to our own children's future as educating them individually. Public schools are a necessary institution because they are the only way to ensure that knowledge and opportunity are available to all Americans.

The public resources invested in public schools after the Second World War transformed our educational system into the envy of the world and provided the baby boomers with the skills to lead the world.

Over the years, however, funding for public schools has been whittled away by well-meaning individuals like Hunt and Carper. America's inability to produce enough engineers and scientists is demonstrative of our failure in this area. We cannot hope to maintain our competitiveness in a globalized world without a highly educated workforce.

I hope that in the future, people will look to the enormous tax benefits religious institutions already receive before trying to scavenge funding from our already overburdened public schools.

Samuel Milder
Barcelona, Spain

Hunt and Carper missed the point of the common school. They sound cogent and reasonable, but they are reaching for public money. It's the old "choice" issue.

Taxes are not your children's tuition. If you have no children yet, or if they're grown, or if you never have children, you still pay school taxes. Your children's schooling, unrelated to your taxes, is free because they live in America. What your taxes pay for is the great privilege of living in an educated society.

This idea predates even the Declaration of Independence. It is when parents opt out of school taxes to spend on private or home schools that our government would begin to support religion: the "dissenters" listed by Hunt and Carper are religious, as are most nonpublic schools.

Parents who discuss school with their children know that they have opportunities to instill their own values. People who don't like how the public schools teach can get active in their local school.

If they choose, they can educate their children outside the public schools, but they should pay for it themselves.

Diane McGuire
Seattle

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear in print or on our website, www.csmonitor.com. Mail letters to Readers Write and Opinion pieces to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115. E-mail letters to Letters and Opinion pieces to OpEd.

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