Voices of the Peninsula: The dangers of school choice

  • By Bob Bird
  • Monday, February 10, 2014 4:04pm
  • Opinion

Rushing headlong like lemmings into the sea, Christians are piling on their legislative efforts to enable people to afford private education.

It’s not hard to understand why: Christians rightly sense that our country must turn to God, and the restoration of Christian education is necessary for such a return. But some thin, reedy voices of caution are in order. Our culture is so ingrained with the idea that the government should pay for just about everything, that even well-meaning people are working overtime for what may be a cleverly-disguised trap.

The first premise we need to understand, is that courts are seldom the friend of faith-based legislation. Don’t believe me? Look at the injunction just issued this week by Judge John Suddock against the State’s regulatory attempt to stop Medicaid funding for abortion. Suddock refused to recuse himself — and the State Attorney defending the regulation did not object — even though Suddock’s firm, Suddock & Schleuss, sued the State over Medicaid funding for abortions in 2001.

But let’s assume that judges are, in fact, impartial. Even so, they should not be regarded as gurus sitting atop a mountain with a font of wisdom ready to be consulted. Because we have elevated the courts to a god-like status, we have created a tendency to accept their dictatorial decisions, even when they adversely affect us.

Secondly, even though the First Amendment should not apply to the states, most Americans believe just the opposite. How did this happen?

Well, the vaunted yet misunderstood “separation of church-and-state” issue emanates from the First Amendment. However, it should never have applied to the states, and it can be proven in about thirty seconds, viz:

The last state to possess an official, tax-supported religion divested itself of it, and voluntarily, around 1833. But how could this be? How could a state have dared to have such a wanton violation of the First Amendment, which went into effect in the early 1790s?

Simple. Everyone knew back then that the First Amendment only applied to the federal government. But sometime in the early 20th century, the Supreme Court invented the “incorporation” doctrine, which it has since used to apply individual provisions of the Bill of Rights against individual states. And when the power-grabbing courts of the mid-20th century stepped on the accelerator, they managed to put a proper understanding of the First Amendment outside of the living memory of most Americans.

Now, some will rejoice to find that the federal courts have no lawful authority to decide the issue of state-supported vouchers for private schools. But the reality is that public and juridical constitutional ignorance reigns supreme, to be complicated by another socialist tendril making its way into our lives: federal support for education.

Now say out loud as many times as it takes to let it sink in: “Government funding means government dependency and control.”

Let us suppose someone fairly clever has figured this out, and has written into state legislation that this will not be permitted to happen.

Ya think? After countless lies and betrayals, are Christians ready to trust the federal government, which lends educational dollars to the states? Or even our state government, if it refused the money?

Would Alaska resist the inevitable (if unwarranted and arguably unconstitutional) interference from the federal courts? Are we certain that today’s friendly state legislature will always be that way? Do Christian educators expect that public monies will evangelize a generation before the public purse becomes hostile?

If not, are they ready to resist? Then, gird up thy loins for a fight. And, we’ll fight federal government mandates on abortion, contraception, gun control, and the endless other usurpations of justice, common sense, natural law, and the Constitution.

But let’s not kid ourselves, because that’s not where we’re going here. It takes very little imagination to see that the private school curriculums, in order to keep their precious funding, are going to cave in, slowly and incrementally, but inevitably, to whatever government dictates come from the courts and bureaucracies: state, local and federal.

Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson saw this clearly: “If the state may aid these religious schools, it may therefore regulate them. Many groups have sought aid from tax funds, only to find that it carried political controls with it.”

OK, so how can we make private education affordable for the beleaguered and abused taxpayers?

A short-term fix is a property and sales tax credit for those sending their kids to a private school. Why should they have to pay twice for education? First, for the public schools through their taxes, and then again for their children through tuition payments?

For that matter, why should anyone have to pay for a service they are not using? Should the retired widow, who barely scrapes by, have to pay property and sales taxes to support public schools? The bachelor, childless couple, retiree?

The socialist’s argument is shopworn, but let’s give it its stage: “Everyone benefits from an educated society.” I don’t know about you, but I have had about enough of that platitude, especially as no one in their right mind would want to argue that society is better educated than we were, say, in the 1950s.

The long term will be harder: if we started to obey the Constitution, the lighter tax burden would free disposable income for the lower and middle class — especially the middle class, and for the faithful in the pews, who used to be able to generously give to the cause of private education, even when they had no one in the system.

But this will be hard to do as long as Christians view the government as a Sugar Daddy handing out candy … when the proper view of it ought to be that we are dealing with a sinister, surly and hooded drug dealer, ready to enslave us with its “generosity,” and then tyrannize us with its methods of organized crime.

Bob Bird, of Nikiski, is a longtime Kenai Peninsula educator. He ran for U.S. Senate as a Republican in 1990 and as the Alaskan Independence Party candidate in 2008.

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