Dear Dr. Walter Williams

A public letter in response to:
 “End Government’s Monopoly on Schools” by Walter E. Williams

From: Tammy Drennan

Dear Dr. Williams,

Before addressing the issue I’m writing about, I’d like to thank you for all your great columns over the years. I’ve been a fan and have used many of your articles in homeschool classes I’ve taught.

You suggest (not for the first time, I realize) in a recent column that state-funded vouchers, or tax credits, would provide the competition so needed to help America’s state schools excel. I’ve been writing for a few years against state vouchers and for better options that I believe Americans are fully capable of.

Yet some formidable minds disagree with me – you and Milton Friedman, to name two. Every time I read of someone I respect declaring for state vouchers, I wonder if I’m missing something, and I go to thinking again. But I can’t get where you are. It just doesn’t add up to me.

In your most recent article, you compare school vouchers to food stamps and imply that they might only go to the truly needy. Of course, the clamor for vouchers for all children would be deafening and I suppose that would eventually be the case. Shouldn’t all children have choice?

How the whole scenario would play out is uncertain, but I’m going to assume for the sake of this letter that vouchers will give children the choice of any public or private school and possibly even some nontraditional options such as internet schooling (of course, some of this is already being done, but I’m imagining it on a wide scale).

Here’s the part I struggle with – where’s the competition? It’s all state-funded and therefore state controlled. There might be a little more autonomy for charter and private schools, and maybe it would even last a while, but there’s that old accountability problem. And as long as schools are accountable to the state, they’ll be stymied by it.

Even worse, as the system of completely (or almost so) state-funded schools becomes entrenched, the problems we have now will become carved in stone. Most schools will be dependent on state funding, so declaring true independence when the inevitable occurs – the tightening of the noose – won’t be much of an option.

So now we’ve managed to take what independence we already have and turn it over to the state – where do the desperate and illiterate go from here?

Not only do we have a thriving independent education sector in this country right now, but it’s growing — in numbers and in innovation. A phenomenal amount of energy and private money is being poured into state schools in a futile and sad effort to bend them to our will and avoid the full responsibility of free choice. That energy and money could be funneled into real choice and true freedom. It’s no pipe dream. As a matter of fact, it’s a far more realistic picture than the one that paints a network of schools funded by the government yet free of it.

The choices that we’re demanding — vouchers, tax credits — are no choices at all. They are actually a way of shortening our chains. We teach our public schooled children daily the lessons of servitude and non-independence, and now we’re working to make sure the chains are not only shorter but stronger.

I can’t help but wonder if the problem may be our own years of state schooling. We lack the vision and the courage to take back our children and our future and to enable the less fortunate to do the same, to put the state in its place (which is not in our children’s minds and consciences), and to fly into the future. We yell, but not too loudly. We act, but not too boldly.

Free choice is staring us in the face. We still have the liberty to embrace it. My fear is that if we travel much farther down the road of all-state-schooling, we will all end up with no safety net. Our private education community will exist no longer – it will be part of the state system. Eventually, we will not even have the memory of freedom.

Respectfully yours,

Tammy Drennan

See also: Walter Williams: Failure of the Greatest Generation

5 Responses to Dear Dr. Walter Williams

  1. Kirk Beck says:

    Presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul understands the Trojan Horse of state funded vouchers. Is it impossible for Americans to work together to provide affordable schooling without Uncle Sam’s help? I think so and so does Ron Paul.

  2. Marilyn Steffen says:

    Wonderful column by Tammy Drennen. We got government schools in some places with help from politicians for “poor” children in the private schools and then regulation and eventually a take over.

    I am convinced that in a spiritual world stolen (tax) money contaminates everything it touches. I am not aware of anything governments have ever done well.

    After my whole family went through hell in the gov’t schools I took the youngest out in 3rd grade to a private school where they got an evil bureaucrat so he never went to school after the middle of the 5th grade. By the time he was 20 he had about 20 skilled trades, including being Asst. Fire Chief here. And he could compete with many, if not most college graduates in skill and knowledge.

  3. Ed Burley says:

    I am in full agreement that vouchers are not the answer to our education woes. I do understand why many people, including myself, have stumped for vouchers, as a transitional answer to the government school monopoly. At the present time, no amount of empirical data will prove to the ignorant masses that populate our electorate.

    With this in mind, what I suggest is that vouchers can be utilized to the child’s benefit. Those of us who are firmly convicted to teach our children at home, or in a private school setting, could do just such a thing. For those of us who choose not to accept vouchers, we could have a Tax Credit enacted, where the exact amount of tuition/education costs that we parents incur would be taken off of our tax burden. This would allow us, the education provider, to keep the money that is essentially OURS in the first place. It has always been argued that it is immoral that those of us who home educate, or pay private school tuition, should also be paying taxes to fund the government monolith. In this way, we would be simply allowed to keep our own money, for the benefit of teaching our children in our homes, or in private schools.

    I see the same thing for private charities. This is not the government controlling the money, it is the PARENT/TAXPAYER controlling the money. I wonder how many parents would actually “vote” with their tax dollars to keep this failing system solvent? More and more people are choosing home education or private schooling, in spite of the sacrifice it takes. In fact, an intern at my job is a former government school teacher who sends her kids to private school. I find it quite humorous.

    So, in closing, I agree Tammy with your assessment of vouchers. Some of us who have advocated for it are doing so more for the sake of progressing toward a free market in education, with vouchers eventually being replaced by Tax Credits.

  4. tdbwd says:

    In response to Mr. Burley (previous comment):

    From: Tammy

    Thank you very much for your comments. I admit I haven’t given a lot of research or thought to tax credits, so I won’t comment at length, but I wonder this: If the government were to pull out of the education business and just let everyone keep their school tax monies, would that satisfy people? I live outside city limits in a low-tax area, so my property/school taxes are (everyone will hate me) just over $100.00 a year. My parents live in a higher tax area and pay $3000 a year, which would have sent one of their eleven children to a low-cost private school. I have a brother who sends four children to private school to the tune of $15,000 a year, but his property taxes are nowhere near that. It seems to me that tax credits that would satisfy folks would be essentially the same as vouchers, because most people would be getting “back” more than they paid in. If I’m missing something, I’d appreciate being set straight. I’ll try to read up on this issue.

  5. Ed Burley says:

    Tammy, thanks for the reply. I understand what you are saying. I guess I look at taxes as taxes, not as a particular tax being paid by a particular individual. It is true that in some places, school funding is 100% tied to property tax; others it is not. In Michigan, most of the funding comes from the State. The State doles out the money on a per student basis, regardless of region within the state.

    Certainly, I would support the complete abolition of government schools, accompanied by a total moratorium on school funding of any kind. In a perfect situation, that would be preferable – assuming that then the private markets would have some way of providing education to children who come from low-income families (after all, how can one rise out of poverty without education of some sort).

    Granted, home education is cheaper (that is my preferred method), and can be done by even the most uneducated parents. Sometimes though it is good to have some formal situation to make up for what the parent may lack. Typically that would be done by local home education support groups – or area churches, etc.

    I am simply proposing some ideas (which are not original with me) that could help us move away from the gov’t school monopoly, and encourage the free market in providing educational options.


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