The True Cost of Public Education
by Vicki Stormoen, HCS Principal
“I would love to pull my kids from public school and have them attend a Christian School or a Christian homeschool program, but I just can’t afford it.” This is one of the more common things I hear from those looking into the world of private education in light of current events. The unfortunate fact is that private education is not free. It is, in more ways than monetary, an investment in your children in a way that is not required of you when you send your kids to public school. However, it is the oft-repeated phrase that public school is “free” that causes me to bristle. If there is one thing the past couple of years have shown us, it is that there is most definitely a “cost” to public education. That cost may not be felt in monetary terms, but the cost is still there, and it is a high cost indeed. The true “cost” of public education is, bottom line, your child. In terms of authority, control, and decision making, the public education system retains the final say in all matters regarding content and exposure and, most recently, even medical decisions for their students.
One thing the pandemic brought to the forefront for many parents in the public school system was a first-hand look at the actual content of their child’s education and what their children were being exposed to. Lulled by a false sense of security in perhaps being blessed with a Christian teacher, parents caught a glimpse into the curriculum used to teach their children; for it is districts, not individual teachers, who select the curriculum to be taught. Traces, sections, or full-blown Critical Race Theory elements were seen whether subtle or overt. A full-scale push to include LGBTQ materials in an effort to normalize such behavior was present at even the youngest grade levels. Those holding to traditional family norms saw little support or encouragement for their values. The varying degrees at which history was reshaped, remolded, and reimagined was further evidence shattering the illusion that the public school system was an academic neutral setting for Christians to send their children to. Parents found themselves confronted with what their children were being taught and exposed to and how little it mattered how they felt about it.
While the public school system has the final say in matters of content and curriculum parameters, current events have made it clear that they also believe, and are fighting for, the right to make medical decisions for their students as well. The mandates released requiring children to be vaccinated in order to attend in-personal learning are being tested in the courts and fought on multiple fronts. On December 20th, a judge struck down the San Diego District’s mandate for children to be vaccinated to return to school. While many saw this as a victory, others saw it as merely a delay of the inevitable. The district is, naturally, appealing the decision, but significantly, it is noteworthy that the original court struck the mandate down solely because the judge declared that the wrong group was mandating it. It is the legislature, the judge stated, not the school districts, who can make such mandates (notice the question of how parents factor into the equation is nonexistent). The fact that the district is appealing the decision shows a complete disagreement as to the district’s view of their authority to make such mandates over the children enrolled in their schools. It would be naive to think that once granted such power, it will be used solely for pandemic-related purposes.
The cost of public education, when viewed from a different perspective outside of your wallet, is actually quite high. As Christians, the role of raising and educating our children in accordance with Biblical truths is a calling given to us by God Himself. While we may decide to delegate aspects of that calling, the final authority, control, and decision making regarding what our children are learning, what they are exposed to and when, and basic parenting decisions surrounding things like their medical care should never be taken out of the hands of the ones God designed to be in charge of such things. The discussion needs to move away from not being able to afford private education and private homeschooling options to acknowledging that we really cannot afford to send our kids to public school options, for the cost is just too high.