A TALE OF TWO DESKS
by Res Peters
Johnny's desk sits in the little red schoolhouse. He is in the fourth grade. His parents are married and his mother works outside of the home. Johnny watches three or more hours of television per day. He has one sibling. Both of his parents are high school graduates. His teacher holds a teaching credential. The state determines what he is taught and how he is taught. Johnny performs on grade level. This year, Johnny's desk will cost $5,900.
Bobby's desk is his kitchen table. He is in the fourth grade. His parents are married and his mother is a full time homemaker. Bobby watches one hour or less of television per day. He has two siblings. Both of his parents are college graduates. Neither holds a teaching credential. His parents determine what he is taught and how he is taught. Bobby performs on the 84th percentile, two grade levels above Johnny. This year, Bobby's desk will cost $400.
Johnny and Bobby's parents pay their taxes. Johnny and Bobby's grandparents pay their taxes. Half of Idaho's taxes pay for the desks in the little red schoolhouse. And every year, Johnny's teacher tells us it isn't enough to school Johnny.
But Bobby's parents do one more thing. Bobby's parents keep everyone's taxes from increasing even more, because Bobby's desk in not in the little red schoolhouse. There is no little red schoolhouse full of empty desks waiting for Bobby. If Bobby, and all of the other Bobby's showed up at the little red school house, another little red school house would need to be built and filled with desks. Then Johnny and Bobby's parents and grandparents would pay even higher taxes.
Instead, Bobby's parents spend $400 to teach Bobby at home and with higher performance. Bobby's parents pay for his desk. And every year, Bobby's parents tell him, "We have more than enough, Bobby. In fact, if we had to, we could school for less."
And, in addition to the millions of dollars that the Bobby's save the state each year, Bobby and his parents live happily ever after, teaching Bobby at the kitchen table, the priceless reward of unrestricted freedom.
It is not uncommon to hear home educators lament that they are doubly taxed in paying for Bobby's empty desk. Yet, they are paying the same taxes as their fellow Idaho citizens, including retired persons, those without children, and those with children enrolled in private schools. There is no double tax and there is no empty desk.
Home educators have exercised their freedom to educate Bobby at home. They have opted to invest their time and resources into Bobby, rather than placing him under the jurisdiction of the public school. In return, they are free to see that Bobby is instructed by whatever means they choose.
This choice is similar to that of the person who chooses to purchase a book rather than borrow it from the public library. Rather than using state property and complying with the rightful policies governing that property, that person has determined to own the property himself. As the owner of his book, the individual rightfully controls the use of his book, just as the state rightfully controls the use of its book.
Further, the state is accountable to its citizens for its stewardship of that book which was purchased with their money. Freedom for the individual lies in his ownership of the book based upon its purchase with his own money. It has been suggested that vouchers and tax credits are analogous to asking someone else to provide the funds to purchase that book. With that purchase eventually comes the requirement for accountability for its use. It hardly seems worth trading Bobby's freedom for the price of the book!