lev·y / [lev-ee] 1. an imposing or collecting, as of a tax, by authority or force.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dr. Patrick Johnston's letter to Ohio Governor Ted Strickland re: public education

July 7, 2008

To Governor Ted Strickland
Ohio Statehouse
Columbus, Ohio

Dear Governor,

Last week you made a call to the state to give fresh ideas for the improvement of education in the state of Ohio. Several years ago I founded the Alliance to Reform Education funding, which website is www.StopSchoolLevies.org, and which had the mission to improve the cost efficiency and moral and intellectual quality of education by promoting competition in education and parental control in the cost and curriculum of their own child’s education.

I think the time is ripe for such an approach in education. This will be a very courageous approach for you, but I believe very politically profitable. In short, there are no losers with our plan. First, the present dire predicament: as you are well aware,

First, from a financial perspective, we are spending more money on public education with a worsening outcome of poor educational achievement compared to private-educated counterparts. In Zanesville, where I practice medicine, the cost of public education is over $9,500 annually – more than a year of tuition at OSU! Private education in Zanesville, by comparison, is half the cost. Privatizing education would introduce competition into the equation, and dramatically reduce the cost and dramatically improve the quality. No educators would get paid more than free parents thought they were worth. Bloated, inefficient systems would have to slim down and improve quality to compete on a level playing field.

Second, we must address the intellectual deficiencies in the present system. We spend more per capita than any other industrialized nation, and we rank last or next to last in intellectual achievement. With the best teachers in the world, why is this? I believe that it is the policies of the educational bureaucracy are partly to blame. I have spoken to many teachers who complain that they are being forced to teach tests instead of educating them as they were trained to do. Teachers are constrained by policies that are harmful to their ability to keep discipline in class, enforce homework requirements, and teach students what they need to know to be proficient. Parental choice would eliminate the foolish policies of the educational bureaucracy that are harming our children’s potential, such as the policy of passing students to the next grade in spite of failing the previous grade.

Let us also address the moral dilemma of public education. Many people, such as my family, oppose many things that are being taught by the government-controlled educational system. We, and many others, home-educate our children or send them to private schools for this reason. Yet we still bear the financial burden of the government educational bureaucracy. Thomas Jefferson said, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” The educational bureaucracy does not share our morals, nor the morals of most Ohioans with regard to the teaching of origins, prayer in school, Bible reading in school, and a sex education curriculum that justifies sinful behavior and encourages the distribution of condoms and oral contraceptives, etc.

Teaching intelligent design, prayer in school, and condemning sexual behavior as most Ohio parents would prefer would be the democratic alternative, but it is difficult with the prevalent notion that the “separation of church and state” only allows humanistic and/or atheistic approaches to these moral dilemmas. This would be completely remedied by a separation of school and state. If parents want to pay for a humanistic/atheistic education for their children, where they are taught that time and random chance are sufficient causes for all of life, where they are given condoms and taught that homosexuality and fornication are acceptable forms of expression, then they alone would bear the financial burden for it. Privatizing education is the best way to deal with this moral dilemma while respecting parental rights to manage the education of their own children and taxpayer rights to be good stewards of their own wealth. Competition makes for better burgers, better beauticians, better bowling alleys – it’ll make for a better education, morally and intellectually, for Ohio’s children as well. Monopolies only benefit the powerful; competition benefits the consumer (the taxpayers and the children).

The best argument against a separation of school and state is that the poorest among us would not be adequately educated. First, more parents could afford private education than we realize; recall that the cost of public education in the state of Ohio is approximately double the cost of private education. Eighty percent of home-educators, who outperform their public-school counterparts on standardized tests, spend less than $599 annually. However, some poorer families clearly benefit more from government-financed education than they would benefit from dramatically reduced taxation that would result from privatizing education; our plan responds to this dilemma by removing the state from the equation and letting local businesses and free Ohioans invest into local education by giving scholarships to local students whose parents cannot afford to educate their children. Those scholarships would go to the school of the benefactors’ or business’ choice in lieu of relief of the property taxation that is so draining on their profits. It is highly unlikely that Zanesville businesses would continue to give $9,500 annually per Zanesville student per year when they too often get an illiterate workforce as a result, when private education is less than half the cost and produces a better outcome. The portion of private property taxes that go toward the government-controlled educational system would be completely eliminated, which would be an incredible boost, as you can imagine, to our weak economy. The cost of private education would continue to come down over the next several years as more and more educators abandoned the state-controlled bureaucracy to compete in the private sector for the opportunity to educate the community’s children.

Please contact me if you would like to talk further about our plan to privatize education, or visit our website www.StopSchoolLevies.org, or the website of the Alliance for the Separation of School & State.

Respectfully submitted,

Patrick Johnston, D.O.