Should We Take Government Money for Private Education?

September 2021

Taxation and government funding are not new concepts. Throughout human history, governments have levied taxes on their citizens. In Biblical times, the Pharisees tried to muster up accusations against Jesus by questioning Him about paying taxes.

“They came to Him and said…. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.” Mark 12:14-17

Jesus’ words clearly support the idea that we are to pay taxes to the government. But what can we rightfully expect from our government in return? And as believers, do we necessarily want to claim what may be offered to us through government programs? If there are charter/public school/government funds for education available to us, should we take them?

There are three immediate issues to consider. First, in California, both the Education Code and the State Constitution clearly prohibit the use of government funds for religious curriculum, teaching, or instruction.[1] This presents a great difficulty for the Christian parent seeking to disciple their children in the faith and train them to apply the Bible to every aspect of their life.

Secondly, the United States government, at both the federal and state levels, oversees a vast labyrinth of funding (supported by taxation) and regulation. The government will never delegate money to a program without regulating its use. That is one basic issue for Christians wanting to use government funds to educate their children: government money always comes with government oversight.

“What’s the problem with regulation or rules?” you ask. The one making the rules is directing the goals and content of the education. Our government leaders have slowly implemented curriculum in public schools that is directly against God’s word. Students attending a traditional brick-and-mortar public school or campus-based charter school are unquestionably educated under government supervision and government-approved curriculum. Non-classroom-based charter schools students are also part of the public-school system and are under the government’s jurisdiction.[2]

In the same vein, Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are being touted and introduced in California to further “school choice.” If you have ever heard of “school vouchers,” ESAs follow the same concept – the money follows the student. At some point, ESAs may show up on the ballot in California. The idea of ESAs is that the government would deposit public money (tax dollars) into individual student “savings” accounts and parents would direct those funds for their child’s education as they see fit, including using it for public school, charter school, private schools, or possibly even home-based private schools (private homeschools).

However, considering that government money never comes without regulation, ESAs are again a very likely threat to parent-directed, Christian education. Historically, when the government starts to fund private education, it eventually comes to dominate it. Government funding of private schools and private homeschools opens the door wide for government regulation like teacher credentialing, curriculum and testing standards, reporting to government agencies, etc. Small private schools and large private universities alike have experienced this progression in the United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and France.[3]

We expect government regulation over Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) if they are implemented in California. There will be “strings attached” to the initiative, where parents will have less autonomy over their children’s education than if they had just funded their children’s education on their own. ESAs are very likely to become an option that entraps, not frees, the parents to guide their children’s education as they see fit.

When you participate in any education program supported by public funds, you cede control of your child’s education to the state. You give up the ability to direct and make decisions regarding teachers, curriculum, scheduling, testing and other freedoms we currently possess as private homeschoolers.

The state’s interests, not necessarily the parents’ or child’s, will be foremost in any education option funded by the government. To get to the heart of the matter, the public school system seeks to promote the state and to mold students into their version of good citizens of that state.[4]

Government funding of private education opens the door wide for government regulation.

A third issue of concern is more philosophical. There are people serving in the government that firmly believe you are not able to raise your children without their help. When you voluntarily place yourself under their supervision, it reinforces that idea in their minds. When your family participates in a government-funded program, the leaders in government also see a need for more money to continue the program you are participating in. Then arises a need for more administrators for the program. This perpetuates government growth and encroachment into every area of our lives.

Another unforeseen issue that will stem from government funding of home education is the loss of numbers in the private homeschool community. Private homeschooling gives parents the largest latitude of freedom when deciding how to care for and educate their children. Hopefully there will never be a day when there are not enough private home educators left to speak up to defend our freedoms against the unceasing onslaught of government overreach!

The Bible, not state-sanctioned curriculum, is the starting point for all Christian education. You simply cannot provide a Christian education using the means and methods of the state. Noah Webster said,

“Education is useless without the Bible. The Bible was America’s basic textbook in all fields. God’s Word, contained in the Bible, has furnished all necessary rules to direct our conduct.”[5]

Your hard-earned money may be taken by the government in the form of taxes, but your children belong to the Lord. Do not needlessly submit them to a government system that requires the removal of God and His Word from even a minute of your precious discipleship time (school day) with your children.

There is much more which could be covered on this issue. However, in summary, a major Biblical principle to remember is that one should be content with the fruits of his own labor and that which is voluntarily given to him. One must avoid desiring or receiving the fruits of another man’s labor, which is taken from another on an involuntary basis. (Ex. 20:17; Luke 3:14; Rom. 13:9; Phil. 4:11-13; I Tim. 6:8-10)

When we shoulder our personal responsibilities rather than expecting the government to come to our rescue, we take a positive step toward lower taxes, smaller government, and increased freedom. 

"And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful." Titus 3:14

[1] California Education Code, Section 220; California State Constitution Article IX, Section 8.

[2] California Education Code, Section 47615.

[3] Lynda Friesen, “Choice in Education,” National Advocacy for Private Education, (October 1993), Page 29.

[4] Mary Schofield, “Charter Schools: What is allowed, What is not, and Why Christian parents should think twice before signing up,” Christian Home Educators Association of California and Family Protection Ministries, (2002).

[5] Noah Webster, “Quotations,” Websters Dictionary 1828 (American Dictionary of the English Language), accessed August 25, 2021, http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Quotes.