Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Veronica Peterson whom I met at a recent Franklin Center conference. She was formerly with California Watchdog.org.
As an advocate for libertarian philosophy I have found the common conception of “libertarianism” seems to be one of mixed ideas and an internal clash of anarchism vs. state-ism.
It seems among ourselves, the only thing libertarians can agree on is that individuals have rights—from there war breaks out between the utopias of everyone involved in a discussion (but don’t worry, the sacred NAP keeps the peace—or fosters more war). These discussions usually hit a brick wall when everyone concerned realizes that nobody is willing to accept someone else’s utopia, and someone calls someone else a “statist” or depending upon their feelings about the NAP, a “filthy statist.”
Libertarians like to discuss all sorts of important political topics like immigration, economics, the environment, and intellectual property. Each libertarian creates a utopia, centered in the concept of individual rights, and explains how their perfected version of the State can accommodate these rights (or not).
But for a group of people who are so passionate about the rights of individuals, it surprises me there aren’t more—and more fruitful—discussions of school choice.
It seems libertarians would be interested in the rights of the parents and government authority, but the topic of school choice is embedded with slightly less obvious rights, as well as our government supporting autonomy. Then we are faced with the reality that while we seem to believe in supporting liberties and markets, the government is facilitating actual liberty for families and children where it was not otherwise achievable.
Young libertarians should be up in arms over these ideas. Young libertarians have the opportunity to create and enact a libertarian ideal in the real world—that will help their own children—if they begin now.
Last month the Franklin Center held their #AmplifyChoice event in the Washington DC, area to raise awareness of National School Choice Week. The event included campus tours, meeting with teachers, families, and students, lectures about the logistics of charter schools and education, as well as opportunities to ask one on one questions with experts in education, politics, and operators of private and charter schools.
In contrast to many areas of the country, families in the Washington DC area have many educational options for their children. The DC area offers traditional public schools or a diverse choice of public charter schools and private schools.
Now here is one of the twists: the DC area offers the Opportunity Scholarship, which awards qualifying students scholarships to attend private schools. This scholarship is federally funded and is only available to the DC area. There are about 50 private schools accept students using this scholarship for their tuition.
This scholarship helps break down economic barriers and overall families more educational options—but it is federally funded…
Ok, so, government funding isn’t uncommon for schools. Traditional public schools are the standard in the governmentally funded education. These are where you end up if there are no other options—children are entitled an education, and what the government provides them is what they get.
What’s interesting is the most common alternative (besides home schooling) is public charter schools that are regulated differently state to state. DC has created a system that leaves charter schools funded through the government while leaving them autonomous. This autonomy is possible because of the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board (PCSB), which authorizes and oversees the public charter schools that are run by independent nonprofits. Charter schools have the freedom to use the teaching methods that the individual nonprofits choose, in contrast to whatever the government wants to teach your kids. Focusing on quality education, PCSB bases a tiered rating system of charter schools on student progress, parent satisfaction, and student achievement.
Why is this not a thing everywhere?
The liberty movement is the prime group to advocate for educational freedoms and the autonomy of families. Why are we arguing over who is a “real libertarian,” and instead be arguing over what schooling options are legitimate and why?