Monday, April 25, 2011

Communism in my Home State

I'm back! Long time, no blog.

Had an interesting talk with my father-in-law over the Easter holiday. He used to be the business manager for his school district. Now that he's "retired", he still works for the district, managing grounds and maintenance or something like that, I believe. He does a million things for them. The man can do just about anything, really.

We were talking about the district budget and I asked him what percentage of their money comes from the state and what percent from local taxes. Turns out, in Kansas, the state tells every school district how much property tax they have to collect for schools. Then it takes all of that money and redistributes it equally to every school district in the state.

I'm trying to understand how this is NOT educational communism.

My husband offered an idea. What if the people in, say, Shawnee Mission school district (a wealthy KC suburb) wanted to pay more of their own money to improve their children's schools. What if they doubled their own property taxes, agreeing that a good portion of that extra money would stay in their own district and the rest could be distributed to the other districts in the state. Every school would get more money. Who loses there? But no, Dad said, that would be wrong. The rich kids' schools would have more than the poor kids' schools. Unfair.

There's something very disturbing in the basic principle here that I'm having a hard time articulating. Let me try it this way . . .

Because of our current financial state, we are able to have internet access in our home, which provides our daughters with a lot of educational resources. Some parents can't afford that. Does this mean we should not be allowed to give our daughters this resource, because another parent in town can't do the same?

Because of our current financial state, I am able to buy fresh, healthy organic foods for my children. I am also able to stay at home with them, which gives me more time to prepare healthy home-cooked meals. But some parents aren't able to do that, at least not without some stress and sacrifice. Does this mean I should not be allowed to give my children the best nutritional experience possible, because another parent in town is not able to the same?

This argument comes up with my in-laws when we talk about homeschooling, which they aren't crazy about. When I homeschool my daughter, I'm able to give her a better education than the other kids in public school get. But other parents can't homeschool and give their kids that kind of education. So, when I homeschool, I'm giving my daughter an educational advantage over other children. Can't do that -- it's not fair.

Are all "advantages" unfair? Are we never to be allowed to give our children anything that is beneficial for them unless we can make it available to every kid in town -- or the state -- or the country?

There is a basic faulty premise in this argument. Inequality does not necessarily signify injustice. The nature of what it means to be equal is being warped and misused. This is so much a "duh" thing in my mind that I can't even effectively explain the problem in the reasoning.

Unfortunately, none of the rest of us were able to explain it to my father-in-law, either. Amazing how people can see the world in such fundamentally different ways. I think this particular fundamental difference is at the heart of much of the current political strife in our country. Wish I could find a way to clarify the matter for people.

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