FAMILY EDUCATION FREEDOM ACT -- (Extensions of Remarks - April 02, 2009)
* Mr. PAUL. Madam Speaker, I rise today to introduce the Family Education Freedom Act, a bill to empower millions of working and middle-class Americans to choose a non-public education for their children, as well as making it easier for parents to actively participate in improving public schools. The Family Education Freedom Act accomplishes it goals by allowing American parents a tax credit of up to $5,000 for the expenses incurred in sending their child to private, public, parochial, other religious school, or for home schooling their children.
* The Family Education Freedom Act returns the fundamental principal of a truly free economy to America's education system: what the great economist Ludwig von Mises called ``consumer sovereignty''. Consumer sovereignty simply means consumers decide who succeeds or fails in the market. Businesses that best satisfy consumer demand will be the most successful. Consumer sovereignty is the means by which the free market maximizes human happiness.
* Currently, consumers are less than sovereign in the education ``market.'' Funding decisions are increasingly controlled by the federal government. Because ``he who pays the piper calls the tune,'' public, and even private schools, are paying greater attention to the dictates of federal ``educrats'' while ignoring the wishes of the parents to an ever-greater degree. As such, the lack of consumer sovereignty in education is destroying parental control of education and replacing it with state control. Loss of control is a key reason why so many of America's parents express dissatisfaction with the educational system.
* According to a survey conducted by Education Next/Harvard PEPG, the majority of Americans support education tax credits. This poll also found strong support for education tax credits among liberals, moderates, conservatives, low-income individuals, African-Americans, and public-school employees. This is just one of numerous studies and public opinion polls showing that Americans want Congress to get the federal bureaucracy out of the schoolroom and give parents more control over their children's education.
* Today, Congress can fulfill the wishes of the American people for greater control over their children's education by simply allowing parents to keep more of their hard-earned money to spend on education rather than force them to send it to Washington to support education programs reflective only of the values and priorities of Congress and the federal bureaucracy.
* The $5,000 tax credit will make a better education affordable for millions of parents. Madame Speaker, many parents who would choose to send their children to private, religious, or parochial schools are unable to afford the tuition, in large part because of the enormous tax burden imposed on the American family by Washington.
* The Family Education Freedom Act also benefits parents who choose to send their children to public schools. Parents of children in public schools may use this credit to help improve their local schools by helping finance the purchase of educational tools such as computers or to ensure their local schools can offer enriching extracurricular activities such as music programs. Parents of public school students may also wish to use the credit to pay for special services, such as tutoring, for their children.
* Increasing parental control of education is superior to funneling more federal tax dollars, followed by greater federal control, into the schools. A recent review of the relevant research conducted by Andrew J. Coulson of the CATO Institute shows that increasing parental controls increases academic achievement, efficiency, the orderliness of the classrooms, and the quality of school facilities. Not surprisingly, graduates of education system controlled by parents tend to achieve higher levels of education and earn more than their counterparts in bureaucratically controlled education systems.
* Clearly, enactment of the Family Education Freedom Act is the best thing this Congress could do to improve public education. Furthermore, a greater reliance on parental expenditures rather than government tax dollars will help make the public schools into true community schools that reflect the wishes of parents and the interests of the students.
* The Family Education Freedom Act will also aid those parents who choose to educate their children at home. Home schooling has become an increasingly popular, and successful, method of educating children. Home schooled children out-perform their public school peers by 30 to 37 percentile points across all subjects on nationally standardized achievement exams. Home schooling parents spend thousands of dollars annually, in addition to the wages forgone by the spouse who forgoes outside employment, in order to educate their children in the loving environment of the home.
* Ultimately, Madam Speaker, this bill is about freedom. Parental control of child rearing, especially education, is one of the bulwarks of liberty. No Nation can remain free when the State has greater influence over the knowledge and values transmitted to children than the family.
* By moving to restore the primacy of parents to education, the Family Education Freedom Act will not only improve America's education, it will restore a parent's right to choose how best to educate one's own child, a fundamental freedom that has been eroded by the increase in federal education expenditures and the corresponding decrease in the ability of parents to provide for their children's education out of their own pockets. I call on all my colleagues to join me in allowing parents to devote more of their resources to their children's education and less to feed the wasteful Washington bureaucracy by supporting the Family Education Freedom Act.