Response to the October 13 Times Recorder Letter to the Editor by School Superintendent Terry Martin

By Patrick Johnston

First of all, let me say that I consider Mr. Terry Martin a friend and a fellow Christian. Though we have vast differences in our philosophies of education, I truly believe that we both care about our community and our children.

But after reading Mr. Martin’s letter to the editor on October 13th, I have to wonder if Mr. Martin thinks levy opponents do not care for children. He said in his letter to the editor: "Perhaps the most important accomplishment we can achieve with the passage of this levy will be the message to our city's youth that we as a community care about them and are prepared to make a commitment to their future." If the levy fails, will we be giving a message to our city’s youth that we do not care for them or their future?

Why do the supporters of the levy continue to argue that we should vote for this levy if we care about our children? Is it possible to vote against the levy and care about children simultaneously? I think the case can be made that if you truly care about children, and aren’t just trying to gain at another’s expense, then you will vote against this levy!

After all, who knows what’s best for children? Who has the greatest natural affection and love for our community’s children? To whom has the Creator given the right and obligation to direct the training and education of children? The parents – they know what’s best "for the children." They love their children more than even the best teacher! And God obligates parents – not the state - to provide for the needs of their own children, including their education (Deuteronomy 6). Taxpayers may very well choose to vote against this levy because they love their children.

If parents wish to give more money to the government school system, they are free to do so. No one will prevent them. If you don’t want your child to hear prayer or Bible-reading in school, if you want your children to be given condoms and learn about "safer sex" practices, if you want your children to learn about atheistic evolution, then please, send your money to the public school system.

But if parents would rather spend their money to send their children to a less expensive private school instead, they should be free to do so. If parents prefer to spend their money on a Christian education for their own children instead of a non-Christian education for other children, they should be free to do so as well.

I wonder, if Mr. Terry Martin were free to spend his own money on his own children’s education, would he spend $9,200 annually per child to educate them in Zanesville’s public school system, or would he spend $4,500 annually per child to educate them in a private school (that’s Ohio’s average cost for private school)? I suspect that if he were free to spend his own money on his own children’s education, he would prefer a Christian education that taught that the Bible was true, that we were created and did not evolve from monkeys, and that homosexuality and pre-marital sex was sin. You see, even public school teachers love their kids more than the state. They know what’s best for their kids, and should be free to care for their kids with their own money without state interference, without being taxed of their wealth for an educational system to which they would not give willingly.

If loving parents were in control of how money was spent on their children’s education, the quality, the cost, and the efficiency of education would improve dramatically. If loving parents were in control of the content, we’d have creationism and prayer in school, the Ten Commandments would still be posted, and instead of ranking dead last or next to last in science and math compared to the students of other industrialized nations, we’d be at the top of the list!

Zanesville’s school levies are an insult to parents. How dare they think they can spend our money on our kids better than we can? Our levies are an insult to all taxpayers. Let’s be frank: our bi-annual levy is an embarrassing outburst of bureaucratic greed and selfishness. I feel like I’m being rudely pushed away from the buffet line at Golden Corral by a 450 pound obese man who has been feeding at the buffet for four hours! Zanesville’s system is more than twice the cost of a private education in Ohio – and they whine for more?

There is a vibrant home school community in Muskingum County, and according to recent statistics 80% of home-educators spend less than $599 annually per child to home-educate them. My wife graduated with honors with an elementary education degree, and she prefers to home-educate our children with a Christian curriculum, yet we pay several times more in property taxes than what we pay for our own children’s home education. And Zanesville’s beast-of-a-system is going to try to coerce us out of even more of our wealth for their wasteful atheistic system?

This levy is a property tax – on that basis alone it should be soundly voted down. Our state Supreme Court has ruled that property taxation for public education is unconstitutional. Yet the lust for more property taxes by government schools continues unabated. Property taxes are intrinsically immoral, as they do away with private ownership of property and make the government the de facto owner of all property. If you think you own your property, quit paying property taxes and see who really owns it! Government agents will come to your home with guns and force you off your own property. Property taxes are immoral – even if they are for a good cause.

Mr. Martin presents the argument that we have more to gain than to lose with the passage of this levy, with building construction and maintenance jobs that will become available. Signs around town have a picture of a key and a treasure chest, with a message that says that this levy is a key to open up a treasure chest of state funds for our kids. Well, that’s an appeal to selfishness if I’ve ever heard one. Just because we can benefit from an act doesn’t make it right. The money that would come from the state to pay for our public schools would be coming from over-taxed Ohioans. Can anyone deny that? Zanesville’s public school system should not be coveting the money of other over-taxed Ohioans any more than ours. The tenth commandment, "Thou shalt not covet" applies to bureaucrats as well as their subjects.

Mr. Martin proposes that this levy will help our city land new industries and keep more Zanesville graduates in town. It could just as easily be argued that they’d be more likely to leave. If a Zanesville graduate moved to a smaller district in any direction, they could spend hundreds to thousands less in property taxes annually. That would save the equivalent of a week of work, or the cost of an annual vacation to the beach or a ski trip in the mountains. That’s a strong temptation to leave Zanesville, isn’t it?

"It’s just a little bit of money," the levy proponents console us – a little bit every year for twenty-three years. And how many more "little bits" will they want over the next twenty-three years? "Get out of my way," the 450 pound man insists, "I just want one more donut!"

Mr. Martin concludes, "For us older folks this tax may feel a lot like the days when we were sick and mom went to the cupboard for that big old bottle of cure-all castor oil. We all hated the taste, but we realized it was just what we needed to keep us going!"

It’s Zanesville’s government school system that’s going to be drinking the castor oil of another failed levy. That’s a remedy the over-taxed taxpayers could stomach.

With every levy attempt, the taxpayers should follow up with a ballot proposal to revoke the last levy. Then maybe the same greed that keeps them reaching for our refrigerators every six months will provoke them to stop trying to harness the confiscatory taxation power of the state to steal more of our stuff. Until we have a separation of church and state and a free market education for our community’s children, we should at least insist the 450 pound obese man not gain any more weight eating off our plates.

Be liberated from the guilt trip that the bureaucrats want to put upon you. You can love your kids and vote down a levy simultaneously. Be free to spend your own money on your own kids, and vote NO to the levy.

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Mr. Terry Martin’s letter to the editor can be read at http://www.zanesvilletimesrecorder.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061013/OPINION02/610130331/1014/NEWS17