Elizabeth Hartline Green
Where do the candidates stand on education? Ron Paul on education.
This is the third in an ongoing series on where the candidates stand on education.
Today, we will examine the educational record and stances of Congressman Ron Paul.
Ron Paul has said markedly less than the other candidates about education; his website does not mention the word education or his stance on education issues. Nevertheless, he has made public statements about and voted for educational issues that reveal his beliefs about education policy.
Most of Paul’s educational stances come from his stance against federal involvement in education. In fact, all of his views stem from this, making him appear the most ideologically consistent candidate I have yet seen. He supports the abolishment of the Federal Department of Education, and wants parents to have complete freedom in how to educate their children. Paul voted against mandating prayer in public schools, but also against preventing it—essentially he just wants the federal government out of the issue. He also voted against authorizing No Child Left Behind, believing it represented too much federal involvement in education.
Ron Paul is strongly in favor of school choice, in his case defining school choice as parents have complete freedom of how to educate their children, and providing educational tax credits for all families with children. This plan, which he has proposed in 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005, and now 2007, has been repeatedly put forward in a bill that would provide $5000 yearly in tax breaks to every child who incurs educational expenses. The money is intended to compensate parents for educational expenses incurred, most likely at private schools (though I believe the credit would also apply to parents whose children are homeschooled, and possibly for some students in public school). Paul did not propose cutting public school funding in accompaniment to this bill, allowing him to put it forward as what he perceives a more favorable alternative to vouchers (which traditionally take money from public schools and apply them to private school tuition). These tax credit would prove most beneficial to families with higher incomes, as families of limited means do not pay much in income taxes.
Paul is not opposed to vouchers, though, and has voted to allow states to use federal money for school vouchers. Conversely, he voted not to establish a federal voucher program for students in Washington, D.C. This could possibly be because the D.C. program would represent a greater deal of federal involvement in schools, while the national program would use money already being provided to states for voucher; Paul has not explained the differences in these votes, though.
Paul is also for raising teacher salaries, in a roundabout way. Paul proposes a $1000 a year tax credit for all teachers in his tax credit bill. The interesting aspect of Paul’s support of tax credits is, while he is correct in asserting that they will not increase federal spending, they most certainly will decrease federal revenue, which seems to be a difference only of semantics. There are approximately 53 million school-aged children in the United States, and roughly 10% are in private school (a much smaller, but growing, number is homeschooled, which we will leave out of this calculation). If each of these children was given a $5000 tax credit, approximately $25 billion less would be raised in tax revenues every year. If we assume a teacher:student ratio nationwide of approximately 15:1 (which probably is a bit high, as other educators may be counted in the tax credit), we have another 3 billion dollars gone from the education budget (and thank you to Raymond, for catching a math error I made in the original post). This would almost equal the federal government's entire contribution to public education. Granted, this is a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation, so the actual amount may vary slightly, but it is startling. Paul also supports the abolishment of the IRS, which could explain this stance.
There is a lot of speculation that Ron Paul would end public education, but he has never actually said that is what he wants to do (though it certainly is a popular belief amongst libertarians). Essentially, Ron Paul’s educational stance seems to be a complete abolishment of any federal role in education, in favor of a larger role of parents and localities in school policy.