Uneducated kids will expose stupid parents

To read the rest of Osmond's visionary opinion, go here: www.senatesite.com/home/compulsory-education.

It’s come to this.

Utah state Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan—nephew of Donnie and Marie—recently called for an end to mandatory education in a blog post, noting that prior to 1890, when education became mandatory, people saw it as “an opportunity.” Parents were more engaged, and teachers were more respected. Osmond says now teachers and schools do far too much parenting and suggests that parents should decide whether education is important enough to send their children to school, saying “Let’s let them choose it, let’s not force them to do it.”

My first reaction was relief that at least it wasn’t a Nevada state senator wanting to punish children for the perceived sins of their parents. After all, public education is what provides “an opportunity” for all children to succeed, whether rich or poor, whether the child of a state senator, or a drug addict, or a single mother working three part-time jobs to provide for her family.

But before we become too smug, let’s take a look at the latest education funding study, although you’ve heard this news before. According to the National Center for Education, Nevada now ranks 44th in the nation in per-pupil spending. The national average in fiscal year 2011 was $10,658 per pupil, and Nevada lagged behind with just $8,411 per student. At 50th place is none other than Utah at $6,326.

If education were not mandatory, just think of the tax breaks that money could buy.

A few weeks ago, the Las Vegas Sun published its own study, analyzing federal education data linking school expenditures and high school graduation rates. The newspaper found a strong correlation between higher education spending and high student performance. Nevada was noted as one of the states that spent the least on education and had a corresponding low rate of high school graduation.

But wait, you say. Nevada’s low-tax situation is what allows businesses here to thrive. If we raised our funding to the national average, someone would have to pay the price tag. Industry would leave us for the greener pastures of Utah, where public education may become an optional expenditure if children choose not to go.

Besides, we don’t want to offend the mining industry, a major donor to rural Nevada schools and social causes. And if their funding priorities aren’t ours, well, it’s their money isn’t it? Their donation isn’t mandatory.

And it’s not just the miners who are fond of making a tax-deductable contribution instead of paying more in non-deductable taxes. In a June 16 Reno Gazette-Journal story, Wayne Frediani of the Nevada Franchised Auto Dealers Association, “bristled” when confronted with the opinion that businesses might be considered anti-education if they opposed the Education Initiative which would establish a broad-based business tax to support our kids.

Frediani told the newspaper, “We will oppose this just like many other businesses statewide—including gaming, mining and retail. But we are not anti-education, and I am not going to listen to anyone [say] that we are, because that is not the case. We don’t like it because of the way it impacts our industry.” He goes on to point out he has donated 26 cars to the University of Nevada, Reno athletic department and another 25 cars to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, estimating a savings of $380,000 a year in his “courtesy-car program.”

The irony of equating a tax-deductable expense of cars for coaches with supporting our brightest youth in university-level academic pursuits through taxes seems to escape him.

The inescapable conclusion for the rest of us is that as long as Nevada treats education funding as charity instead of the obligation of a democratic society offering opportunity for all, our state is not going to move forward in any meaningful way.