School vouchers are all the rage today. Everyone wants greater “choice” in education. So who wouldn’t want vouchers?
Well I do not. And you can understand my opposition just by explaining what a voucher is. School vouchers allow parents to apply their tax money to whatever government-approved schools they want, including private schools.
Yes, vouchers would get the private schools more money. That’s the main argument for them. But along with this, vouchers bring government control. There is always a string attached to tax money.
For an example of this, just look at “private” universities that take government money—which are almost all of them. This is because taking government money includes allowing students to apply for federal aid.
Such “private” universities are now subject to all the congressional legislation regarding schools, such as Title IX. The universities cannot discriminate on the basis of, well, almost anything. And if the leftists get their way, it will include “sexual orientation,” thus causing all sorts of problems for Christian schools.
This is what private universities, including many religious universities, are up against because they took the government cheese. (Props to Grove City College and Hillsdale College for staying strong here. They take no federal money.)
And this is what private K-12 schools will be up against if they accept school vouchers. Some private schools are already heavily regulated by the government, depending on the state. This will only get worse if they take “vouchers,” a.k.a. state tax money.
So yes, vouchers are a terrible idea. They are mostly supported by big-government politicians, many of whom identify as “conservative” (hence an almost useless term today). But these politicians are looking for a quick fix, overlooking the long-term consequences. As I said in a previous article for the Foundation for Economic Education:
While state regulations may not be imposed initially upon private schools receiving voucher money, they certainly will be down the road. There is always a string attached to tax money, and the state will slowly creep its way into regulating curricula and teacher requirements. Private schools should be seeking to free themselves of government control, not enslave themselves.
Unfortunately, the economist Milton Friedman supported vouchers, which gained steam in the 1980s. But his goal was to use vouchers to undermine the public school system (which is the fear of many public school advocates today). However, this is not the goal of proponents of vouchers today. They just want more money for private schools.
And anyway, that was a bad idea by Friedman. It would be much better to allow parents who do not use the public schools to just opt out of the taxes they currently pay. This would reduce the amount of money that goes to government schools and would leave more money in the pockets of families to pay for private school tuition (or homeschool expenses). This avoids the pitfall of vouchers—government is left out of the equation, and private schools remain private.