Right Schooling?

Justin Amash came to town this week, and boldly asserted “something isn’t a right if someone else has to pay for it.” Well, that didn’t sit too well with those in the audience, not least, fellow debate coach, Pam Conley. She pointedly asks
If that is the case how is voting a right?… or the right to a redress of grievances in a court of law, …or trial by jury of your peers, or the right to legal representation if you can’t afford representation? … I have more but EVERY right that requires implementation and/or enforcement comes with price tag. Elections, courts, police, trials, lawyers… none of these are free, all are paid for by taxes, and are by deceleration of the US Constitution or the SCOTUS’s ruling (ie..Miranda rights) rights we as American citizens are insured are “inalienable”.
And since this is the Policy question….  
The question may be put: does education belong to the individual, is it essentially personal in nature? Or is it something of social or communal function, a piece of social infrastructure?
If it is personal, and so a “right” this oddly leads you to Betsy DeVos. If a right, then the mode of delivery is secondary. Indeed, as a right could education be subject to 1A requirements? Does right entail vouchers?
As infrastructure — this seems to be the way the Northwest Ordinance treats, viz. as part of development. Horace Mann (Letter No. 5, if I recall) sees education as building the community and its economic life. Infrastructure does not necessarily mean that funding can vary (ok, Pothole Michigan   ) but it does express a commitment and moreover, it shifts the argument from the moral (Right) to that of justice, of a common good for all.
What complicates the matter is the question of special education. A rights model does seem to be the easier model for this funding. The infrastructure argument falters somewhat (although Mann did promote education for those with these needs — education is something a community does for the community was the reasoning). My own thought is that a 14A approach to the infrastructure framing gives us the better outcome, since it would necessarily involve metrics (Rights as moral considerations often falter on the metric side).


Rep. Justin Amash held a town hall meeting at City HS auditorium and the place was packed. What was striking to many was the engagement.The big lesson (always!) is that you don’t have to agree, but you do have to listen. And you don’t have to agree with him to admire him.

There is, I think, a growth from the brash 20-something bomb thrower a decade ago. At the time of his election I wondered how the office, how time would change him. Would he end up as a sort of ideological purist, on the fringe? Would he migrate to an official (and powerful) libertarian platform? Who would he become? For him, Trump is a gift, pushing back, standing for the Constitution, Amash builds a broader base than he did in the last years of Obama. At last the  stance begins to get traction, and his skills of communication finally show up. Justin Swan sees as much in a Facebook post,

My response to the noise against him, beginning back in 2010 has been “have you heard him speak? Because if you hear him speak, you wouldn’t say what you just said about him.”… finally, people from both sides of the isle are hearing him speak, and for the most part, they like what they hear OR they respect where he’s coming from.

More on this from Rachel Bade at Politico:

How one GOP congressman tamed pro-Obamacare protesters

Making Education Safe for Homeschools

On his Facebook page, Rep. Justin Amash presents his education platform. Some interesting stuff is going on.

The right of parents to educate their children as they see fit, including the right of homeschooling, should not be infringed. Government-mandated curriculums and teaching methods do not properly account for different learning styles, leaving many children confused and falling short of their potential. To encourage innovation and competition, the federal government should—and constitutionally must—leave the matter of education to the states, where it will be better managed and funded. Critical decisions should be made locally, letting parents, teachers, and community leaders determine the most efficient use of resources.

Cut through the rhetoric and starry-eyed romanticism, three items stand out: first, removal of funding from the Federal government (the ending of Title I) would substantially affect special education. As disabilities tend to correlate inversely with socio-economic status (ie more for the poor), underfunding special education puts poor schools and neighborhoods particularly at risk.

Second, the other key initiative underway is that of developing Common Core and standards — this is the business of those “government-mandated curriculums (sic)”. Again, shifting to the states can seem to be a good idea, but as state behavior post NCLB demonstrated, states have a natural incentive to set the bar low. We get Lake Woebegone schools where everyone is “above average.” Again, the impact for such policies falls disproportionately on the poorer communities; lower standards become an excuse for substandard performance. If nothing else, NCLB got one important truth right: student success should belong to all not just to some.

A third liability to Rep. Amash’s rose-colored viewpoint is simply this: poor districts often lack the resources from the state and local funding to fully provide the programs sufficient for student success. Again, helping the poorer districts is the second major funding dimension to the federal education budget.

So we are back to the key questions: how do we make sure our weakest students get a good education; and how do we make sure our schools actually work to raise the standards for all children and not simply those of the well-off districts?

The Money Race

Nate Reens covers the looming congressional cash battle

(Steve) Pestka, a former Kent County judge and state lawmaker, banked nearly another $130,000 in contributions from others to put him on even footing with incumbent Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, according to the records that cover the first quarter of fundraising this year.

Given the national stature of Amash, it would be foolish to think this $200k is anything more than pocket change. A serious threat — and Pestka is clearly approaching the serious threat threshold — will be the motivation. As the proclaimed heir to Ron Paul, Amash can tap some incredibly deep pockets.

That’s why for the D’s it is less a matter of dollars than of organization. Of the two Dems, the Pestka campaign has the present advantage here over that of Trevor Thomas — certainly it has deeper connections into the community.

Down With Tyranny was in full progressive mode the other day, pushing the Trevor Thomas campaign and smacking down Steve Pestka

Trevor is the fighting progressive we need. He comes from a working class family and he has a record of helping to pass major federal legislation, namely the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. . . . Let’s help spread the word and work to stop this faux-Democratic challenge and stand by our party’s platform to help protect women now.

But I have my doubts.

Curiosity gets the better of me: in what way is Trevor fighting, or has fought for West Michigan? By all lights his campaign is pretty green, offering little to date in the way of political engagement with Amash (n.b. his web site offers values not issues). He has clearly put together a nice team, but do they look like, do they connect with the actual district? Let’s just say that for a campaign based on “for us all,” minority representation lags. This is the natural product of young or first-time campaigns. Amash’s first run in 2008 looked a lot like this, too.

But this is not a post-graduate seminar, or the chance to demonstrate one’s progressive creds. Take a look again at the task at hand: two metropolitan regions, a democratic base that is racially diverse, strength in cities and support in suburbs. This will be both a media intensive campaign (including all matter of social media) as well as require a robust, motivated, well-organized ground game. You can not do it with your own cohort. And by all lights, such a campaign will have a final budget well into seven figures.

In short, as any one on the ground knows that this campaign is going to take work.

So again the question, in what way is Trevor actually fighting, actually engaging, actually demonstrating that he has the smarts to win

Ron Paul? Please.

Justin Amash

Bill (William), do you not think that Ron Paul can compete with your nominee, Pres. Obama? The President has been a disappointment on civil liberties, no?

My view is rather pragmatic, actually. Age first. At 76, he carries a burden of age and energy — granting that I have a mother in law at 93 who still drives herself to church. Second, I think that his strong individualism is too much of an acquired taste for the general election (CNN polls not withstanding). The center has a greater communitarian sense, a sense that I’m not sure that Rep. Paul is willing to surrender his ideals for; indeed that principled stance has been his calling card.

And on civil liberties, the security state is thing to be resisted and constitutionally chained. There, I am with you (and Paul).


Law and Justice

‎”Every individual has the right to use force for lawful self-defense. It is for this reason that the collective force—which is only the organized combination of the individual forces—may lawfully be used for the same purpose; and it cannot be used legitimately for any other purpose.”
Frédéric Bastiat, The Law

Not a bad liberal quote in the old-fashioned sense. However the counter would be the other tradition in the West, that of the Augustinian Christianity that understands that force is also a tool for justice (as a guard or restraint on individual behavior, and on occasion as a proactive aspect — one does as well as react).

[A secondary note would be that Bastiat does not especially in this quote deal with the question of anarchy. This is Hobbesian territory, an area I probably should explore if I had time.]