School Official: Public School a "Privilege Not An Entitlement"

By law, all children need to be educated. That means they either need to attend public school, a private school, or be homeschooled. This is the law in pretty much every state in the nation, so far as I’m aware.

Yet it seems that at least one school official disagrees.

Chris McCune is the president of the West Chester, PA school board. Here’s some info on an email McCune sent to the school system superintendent.

So, it’s not an entitlement but a privilege?

Well, let’s take a look at the options. You see, most people send their children to public school because, well, they can’t really pursue the options available. Most can’t afford private school and with so many families requiring two incomes, they don’t see homeschooling as an option.

And, really, private school education isn’t cheap. While some private schools do try to maintain affordable rates, definitions of “affordable” vary between families. As a result, a lot of people don’t have this option.

So, in Pennsylvania, if public education is a privilege and private school unaffordable for many, that means homeschooling, right?

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However, Pennsylvania law requires the parent to have a high school diploma at a minimum, which means parents who dropped out of school themselves aren’t legally qualified to teach their own children. They’d have to enroll them in some kind of program akin to a private school itself.

So, with there being barriers to just anyone teaching their kids and with private schools, just how does McCune see it as a privilege rather than an entitlement?

Especially when the Pennsylvania State Constitution says:

“The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.”

—Pa. Const. art. 3, § 14

It seems Mr. McCune has not read the state constitution himself. It’s sad when a guy from Georgia is more aware of the facts about something he’s been elected to administrate.

Look, I’m not a huge fan of public education. While I agree we need some kind of education, I’m not sure public education is the way to address it. There’s no accountability for bad systems and no options for those displeased with their schools.

Yet the law requires some degree of education for your children. You have to either teach homeschool or pay for private school unless you opt for public education.

Further, public education is funded by society as a whole through, among other things, property taxes as well as federal tax dollars being sent to state and local systems. It’s not funded through specialized taxes that only impact those who use certain resources—like, say, the gasoline tax being used to help fund road construction—but through broad taxes that impact everyone regardless of whether they utilize the services directly.

The thinking goes that this is because society as a whole benefits from an educated populace.

This is fair.

Yet this also implies that this is an entitlement, not some privilege. After all, the state constitution calls for a public education system to educate the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Of course, none of what I wrote above was necessary because it was obvious bullshit. We all know it just on the surface. If you can arrest me and send me to jail for not sending my kid somewhere unless I make other arrangements, it’s not a privilege. Period.

Unfortunately, since COVID started, we’ve gotten a good glimpse at just how little many school boards think of their constituents. We don’t see this with members of Congress, state legislature officials, or any other elected folks you care to name, but we’ve seen multiple examples of school board members thinking the parents who desperately want their kids to return to school are somehow beneath them.

Most have enough sense, though, not to declare school as a privilege rather than an entitlement, but they come pretty damn close to that level of stupid.

And honestly, that’s a problem. Public education is a joke in so many places in this country that the last thing any school board official should do is sit upon their high horse like they’re unworthy of criticism.

Oh, they’re worthy.

It falls on the people of these districts to respond and demand accountability from these school officials. It’s up to them to remind people like McCune just who the hell he answers to.

If you’re going to require schooling, then public school is anything but a privilege. Holding office? That’s a privilege, and one McCune should be denied moving forward.