election ’08

Candidate attacks opponent’s pro-homeschool stance

Senator Tony Fulton is a conservative Republican running for legislature in Nebraska’s 29th district, covering a pretty conservative section of the capital city.  He is also well-known around here because of his support of homeschoolers during LB1141, a bill introduced this year which would have required homeschoolers to submit to greater state oversight.  This history isn’t viewed as favorably by his opponent, Susan Scott.

A few thoughts:

Educators agree…

I’m sure many do.  And I am sure that Ms. Scott was an excellent teacher who has a lot of experience to share.  But according to the Nebraska State Education Association, “teachers did their homework” and endorsed Tony Fulton.  So did the Nebraska Home Educators PAC.  What gives?  Perhaps it is possible to both support public education and the rights of parents to educate their children at home?

As an educator…

I have no problem with this section.  She appears to be a fine teacher who I am sure would have a wonderful perspective to offer on education, especially since so much of her work was in special education.  But I will say that being an excellent teacher does not necessarily qualify one for political office.  I would like to know more about her suggestions in a mailer such as this, rather than a focus on a skewed view of the opponent’s stance.  Perhaps this is just me, but it also appears as if she is attempting to imply an endorsement from the teacher’s union which she does not have.

Diverting needed money…

This section brings up two separate and completely unrelated topics and splices them together in such a way that I think it would be easy to get the wrong idea about what Senator Fulton actually believes and advocates.  He did introduce a bill which would have diverted money from education to roads, as referenced in the small print (Lincoln Journal Star, “Redirect Funding to Roads”, 12/19/07).  This had nothing to do with home education, but with one of those other issues facing the state…gas taxes and road construction.

Nebraska needs some revenue to cover the maintenance and construction of roads.  We have a lot of space to cover and a small population base to share the costs.  This year, the legislature voted to increase the gas tax, against the protest of the people.  Other proposals have included additional taxes on trucks coming through the state whose destinations are not here in Nebraska.  What Senator Fulton actually proposed was changing the distribution formula for the motor vehicle tax slightly to divert more funding to roads.  The money has to come from somewhere, and somehow, taking it from the motor vehicle tax makes an odd sort of sense.  The original formula gave 60% of the tax to local school districts whereas Fulton’s proposal would have given districts 55%.

Update: Senator Fulton sent me an email clarifying the redirection of funds.  I’m still looking for a source, but in the meantime this is what he says in regards to funding education:

One interesting addendum regarding LB741:  as I have proposed that mechanism to fund roads, I have also proposed holding schools harmless with General fund revenues.  In this way, it is a type of tax shift.

Instead, he advocated for homeschooling…

He certainly supported us.  Of course, as a homeschooler, I see his support of our right to direct the education of our own children as a tremendous positive.  And this attack makes me a little more uncomfortable with Ms. Scott.  But the article cited in her mailer is a little odd, and available online: Homeschoolers to hold rally at State Capitol.  You will have to scroll down.  It is actually a text box within an article which outlines the activites of the Nebraska Christian Home Educators’ annual Legislative Day where homeschoolers meet at the Capitol, learn about the legislative process and have the opportunity to speak with their senators for a few minutes.  This year, it happened to fall right after the introduction of LB 1141 and was not organized in response to it, contrary to how the description reads (although some of the schedule was changed to give more time to speak with senators about the issue).

And Senator Fulton was part of the opening ceremonies.  He undoubtedly demonstrated strong support for us, and has thus earned much loyalty from homeschoolers in his district and even beyond.  However, his education policy, contrary to what the casual reading of Ms. Scott’s mailer might imply, does not divert funding from public education to support homeschooling.

And a note on homeschooling and funding…

Senator Schimek’s proposed bill to increase oversight of Nebraska homeschools would have cost Nebraska additional funds…funds it does not currently have and funds that would have likely come out of the education budget.  After all, standardized testing is not free, nor are the certified teachers to oversee their administration or to go over the portfolios which were offered as an alternative.

Local school districts often speak of homeschooling as if it diverted funds away from education because funding formulas give them money based on attendance.  However, we pay the same property and motor vehicle taxes as everyone else in the district.  And it costs money to educate a child…money that is not spent on homeschoolers.  According to the US Department of Education, we spend on average $4,934 per pupil for instruction.  This does not include many of the expenditures which remain when a child does not attend school (such as the building, etc.).   The district may not be getting our tax dollars directly as they would if our children attended public school, but the state has more money to distribute because of our choice.

In fact, the Heritage Foundation pulls together some different statistics on homeschooling to demonstrate just how much homeschooling saves American tax payers.

Given the Department of Education’s conservative estimate of 898,000 students who were educated entirely at home in 2003, the National Home Education Research Institute’s estimate of 2 million homeschool students, and the national average per pupil expenditure on instruction, homeschooling likely saves American taxpayers and public schools at least $4.4 billion to $9.9 billion in instruction costs each year.  The Economic Benefits of Homeschooling.

In Connecticut, First Selectman Tom Marsh even proposed a $3,000 tax credit to homeschoolers in order to save the state money.

Support for homeschooling does not have to mean that public schools suffer.  In fact, the mere existence of homeschooling provides the state more money to spend on education and a small amount of competition for the public schools.  Across the United States, we see schools altering their programs and allowing for more flexibility and individualized solutions in an attempt to attract homeschoolers back in to the schools.  This makes our public schools stronger, not weaker.  And it gives more families more real opportunities to make sure their children are receiving an excellent education.

That is sound education policy which benefits all Nebraskans, not just one segment of the population.

Why I am not impressed with Chuck Baldwin

Sprittibee hates talking about politics, and yet she can’t seem to stop.  I love talking about politics, and yet I just haven’t desired to wade into those waters.  But I’ve been asked so I thought I would answer.

There is a rather popular idiom common to Western nations, but peculiarly prevalent in American politics which summarizes the way many of us on the conservative side feel about our political choices:

I will be voting for the lesser of two evils.

Meaning, of course, that we see two options available to us, neither of which we are particularly keen on.

And in this election, with a strong Christian in the running, many have responded to this frustration with a slight turning of the phrase:

If you are voting for the lesser of two evils, you are still voting for evil.

But there I must beg to differ.  The “lesser of two evils” is merely an idiom.  It does not, in fact, mean that either choice is “evil” in the biblical sense of the word.  It means only that they are both unpleasant.  There are a number of issues I disagree with John McCain on, but I cannot call him “evil” merely because we have a different vision for the direction our country should take.

And honestly?  I have as many concerns about Chuck Baldwin as I do about John McCain.  He is a pastor, not a politician.  That is not a bad thing, but at this point I have no idea how well he can lead a city, let alone a state or a nation.  He has said a lot of things as a pastor which are good and right, but I do not know what that means when I try to apply it to politics.  Perhaps with more familiarity, my discomfort would be alleviated, but I know from experience that not everyone who starts talking about “biblical principles” and “our founders’ vision” means the same thing I do when I bring up these phrases. Some of them mean something very different, and worse than anything John McCain or Barak Obama would bring to the nation.

The Volokh Conspiracy passes Baldwin off as “an enthusiastic purveyor of all manner of far-right conspiracy theories.”  Baldwin has stated that on the day he is elected, “the New World Order will come crashing down.”  Really?  And how does he propose to do that?  Conspiracy talk always pushes me away, but I have not yet been able to decipher what kind of conspiracy theorist he is.  The problem is that in all of my research, most of the theories I have tracked down have their origins in very anti-semitic and often racist ideologies which began to surface in the late 1800s, with the focus shifting from the “Jews” to the “international bankers” in the 1930s.  That is not to say that everyone who holds these views is anti-semitic or racist.  Baldwin certainly isn’t.  I only mention it to provide some context for my own biases in these discussions.  That and the lizard people.  I tend to lump it all together, fairly or unfairly.

But to get back on track with this, to say that the NWO is going to “come crashing down” is a rather odd rallying cry.  And why I would like to know more what he means when he is talking about the NWO.  To me, I cannot separate it from the notion that the Free Masons and the Illuminati control the world…in which case the election has been decided.  But then to focus heavily on our nation’s founding seems odd since most of our founders were Free Masons, a factor which contributed heavily to their ability to meet “in secret” under the noses of the British.

I question his biblical interpretation when he reaches to Ezekial 22:25 as proof that there is a “conspiracy.” There was a “conspiracy” or “treason” of Israel’s prophets, but that is not proof of what most conspiracists are talking about, and fully irrelevant to what he is talking about.  And he completely lost me somewhere between the moneychangers in the temple in John chapter 2 and the international bankers setting up shop in the “temple. What temple?  Then there is his reading of the Declaration of Independence:

In the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” If that isn’t a clear reference to conspiracy, I don’t know what is.

I’m sorry, I don’t see it.  I see no reference to conspiracy, only to the right and duty of people to throw off despotic governments.  Ironically, the Declaration of Indpendence was a “globalist” document as our founders attempted to make their case for independence before the court of the world.

I am a devout Christian.  And I do have concerns with what we often call the “secularization” of America.  But words like this concern me in a world leader, regardless of his religious leanings:

After all, the United States of America was a nation established in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and for His glory. The founders of this country were emphatic about that! Therefore, the imprint and influence of the Savior are seen and felt throughout the length and breadth of this nation. And it is that same imprint and influence that the secularists are feverishly attempting to expunge . . . Therefore, if America wishes to remain a free and independent republic, if this nation truly desires future peace and prosperity, and if we genuinely aspire to remain a blessed and protected land, we must quickly throw off this foolish infatuation with multiculturalism, which is nothing more than an attempt to de- Christianize our country, and humbly return to the God of our fathers!

This is what I’m talking about when I say I don’t know how to take his positions as a pastor and apply them to politics.  Is he going to “expunge” America of secular influence?  Does that mean doing away with freedom of religion and liberty of conscience?  Does it mean a theocracy?  I may agree that we’d be better off returning to Christ, but bringing that about is not the role of government.

Then there is this, written right after 9/11, which I have read five times and I’m still not entirely sure I know what he is saying.

Second, the architects of an internationalist, New World Order must not be allowed to expunge the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in our Bill of Rights. We cannot allow our own government to do by fiat what foreign terrorists want to do by force. Americans must not surrender their liberties to any government. It is more important to be free than it is to be secure! In truth, liberty by its very nature is a risk. We must never give in to the temptation to acquiesce our God-given freedoms.

America doesn’t need the approbation of NATO or China or anyone else. We certainly don’t need the blessing of Pakistan! The United States of America is a free and independent nation and must never accept any attempt by internationalist influences to diminish our freedoms or abridge our rights.

I think he is saying we don’t need to work together with other nations or ask their permission to invade Afghanistan and go after Al Qaeda.  If so, I disagree and wonder what kind of foreign policy we would have if this were followed.  As noted above, we sought the approval of the world in our own fight for independence.  How much more do we need to work with other nations in order to go to war abroad?  And we must remember that the attack on the World Trade Center was not just an attack on the US.  It was an attack on all nations, and other nations have suffered terrorist activity within their own borders as well.

Perhaps I am left voting for the lesser of three evils, but I am seeing it less that way every day.  None of the candidates embody all I would have in a president, but what does that say?  We are not raising up leaders to the task.  Even we, who talk about limited government, are looking to central government to secure that.  Something has gone awry, but it happened long before this election season.

Politician falsely accused of homeschooling

telephoneEvery election year brings with it an abundance of falsities and campaign ads which, well, skew the views of the opposition to the extreme.  This one has to take the cake, however:

Councilman Seth Morgan of Ohio’s 36th District homeschools his children!

The horror!  I can almost hear the sneer in her voice as Ms. Wojcik, president of the Western Ohio Education Association, accuses Morgan of homeschooling and asks residents to join her in voting for Charles Mortan.  Even though she is not a district resident and is not able to vote in the district.

So, do you think there is enough time left for him to blot out the stain false homeschooling allegations have left before the election?  Or is it all over for Councilman Morgan whose only school-aged child attends kindergarten at a local public school?

Or has the NEA and its various state associations completely lost touch with what lies arguments are likely to motivate people into voting for their candidates?