By Randy Brown
Let’s start with the most obvious problem: the math.
Meet Mr. Smith, who has four children that he is sending to the private school of his choice. With public funding of private schools, his children will cost the taxpayers an estimated $4,000 for schooling per year. The actual numbers will be negotiated and argued about for years by proponents of school choice, but the concept will not change.
$4,000 for each child, for each year of school, times 12 years of school (4 times 4,000 times 12). That is approximately $192,000 for this one family that will be paid to a publicly funded private school. Mr. Smith owns a very nice home in the suburbs, and he pays $3,000 a year in property taxes. He will draw $192,000 in costs for the schooling of his children while paying, in the 18 consecutive years his children are in school, only $54,000 in property taxes. To be precise, not all of his tax money goes into the school district. In fact, he will pay only $25,000 in actual taxes in 18 years that will be applied to school costs, based on a quick analysis of the school mill levy. We cannot have a family draw $192,000 in costs from the tax roles and contribute only $25,000 toward those costs. This is simply not a working business model, even for the government.
Add to this list the thousands of children currently already enrolled in religious and private schools in Colorado. All of these children would receive the estimated $4,000 per year in assistance from the public tax roles. That is millions of dollars in additional costs to taxpayers. 40,000 students who are already in private schools who receive $4,000 a year in public funding equals $160,000,000 a year in added costs. Imagine how that will affect the school systems and tax base in your area. From that analysis alone, it is clear that publicly funded private schools will create unfunded and underfunded public schools, and necessitate a serious tax increase just to maintain existing funding.
The second part of the problem is guaranteed: We will have a migration from public to private schools. This will lower the number of students in public schools and lead to public school closures, public school teacher layoffs, and devalued real estate. When the school district closes the elementary school in your area, and tells you to provide transportation to the nearest available school, it will be too late to undo the public funding of private schools. It will be in place, and it will ruin your home values and hurt your children.
The final problem is a conceptual one. We will have an expansion in the private school industry. We would have, logically, Muslim schools, Catholic schools, Baptist schools, atheist schools, private schools and home schooling. We would have hundreds or more identifiable and different schools for choice. We will create a chasm of self-interest and separatism that will ruin this country. Our nation was built on joining together and assimilating, to a degree, into the mainstream. These school choices will create more and more differences, and will create a long-term failure in understanding and cooperation. White schools will be white schools. Black schools will be black schools. Religious schools will teach their own religions. We will not interact, and we will fail to learn to get along. The “strange” children that go to the school across the street will have very little chance to play with and associate with the other “strange” children in the neighborhood. School selection will divide and alienate us.
If it becomes uncommon to let our children mix with other races, religions and cultures, we will fail as a country, and we will all be denied the learning process that teaches us that we are all almost the same. Despite our differences, we all love our children. We all want to provide for them. We all love our families. It is our commonality. It is our community, and our common bond.
Give this some thought. If the financial reasons don’t convince you, imagine the America of the future, with thousands of publicly funded private schools. Imagine a country where we are not one out of many, but separate, alienated and different.
We are in this together. Not the rich people, of course, but the rest of us. We need to go to school together, learn about each other, and learn to get along.
We are divided enough by our religions and politics. Schools are our common bond, because they involve us all in the one thing we love and have in common: our children.
The real solution: Fix the public schools. Make them modern, efficient and computer accessible. Teach programming, computer skills and more. Make public schools in demand, so that private schools will be unnecessary.
Don’t send our kids to separate and private schools. Make all public schools better, so that any public school is the right choice.
Randy Brown is a resident of Littleton.