I am an educator if I am anything. Since before finishing college in
1966, I have been devoted to helping kids from all backgrounds realize their
potential, academically, morally, and civically. Improving education for all
children is one of the main reasons I ran for the Colorado Senate. My
legislative record reflects that. So I was outraged last month when the
Denver Post teamed up with Democrats to smear me with a baseless charge of
seeking to "destroy public schools."
Pushing the system to do better, striving for a less coercive educational
approach, is hardly an agenda to destroy. A constructive, not destructive,
agenda of less coercion is what I'm all about. That's why my name is on a
vision statement hoping for a day when schools are no longer weighed down by
government with its huge costs and stifling rules. The goal is freedom and
opportunity, just the opposite of an alleged plan for "dumping" anyone or
anything. What then is my position on public schools? I believe that schools
should absolutely be public, open to all students who are willing to learn.
I believe that education should be under local control, which ultimately
means parental control. I believe that parents ought to have the widest
possible choice of schools, matching their child's needs and their family's
beliefs, and this is the only true accountability. I believe that schools
should be funded from each family's resources to the extent possible, then
voluntarily from the community, then with tax subsidies to the remaining
extent necessary for equity. I believe we shouldn't politically dictate how
children are taught what is true or what is right. I believe that unionism
degrades the teaching profession. I agree with the late Albert Shanker,
himself a teacher union leader, that there are Soviet aspects to American
I believe that the remedy for all of this is less coercion. I also
believe we need to clear up some definitions. Something can be "public"
without being government-controlled. Consider public information, public
debate, public opinion. Something can be "public" without being universal or
superlative. Consider public assistance, public transit, public hospitals.
Openness and inclusivity are the fundamentals that make something public, and
schooling in our country will only become more that way as its voluntary
Look. I really object to being made out as another Unabomber, simply
because I was one of several thousand signers on a Proclamation for Separation
of School and State, several years before entering the Senate. Not a pledge
of action and certainly not a legislative bill, this paper just expressed the
general set of beliefs I've outlined here, looking to an unknown future time.
In the here and now, I am "pledged" to nothing but gradual, responsible
improvement of the educational status quo.
The only bills I am supporting are ones that seek consensus within the
bounds of current political realities, bills on charter schools and vouchers,
board elections and union powers. I have no agenda whatsoever (as if it
needed to be said!) for "ending" public education, "destroying" the schools,
"dumping" on families, or making things harder for our dedicated teachers as
they work to help all children learn. My agenda about is putting children
first, for I am an educator if I am anything.