|Vouchers: Why Do Conservatives Love ‘Em?
Posted: 25 Jan 2016 05:31 PM PST
If the plaintiffs in Friedrichs vs. California Teachers (or the people for whom they’re sock puppeting) don’t like paying union fees (they already don’t have to pay dues) because the union will spend their money on activities with which they do not agree, boy, they would really hate school vouchers.
The rhetoric of pro-voucher folks (who at this point are the most long-twitching of the various undead unsuccessful reformster species) is to frame the decision about those tax dollars in a very specific way. “These tax dollars belong to the students and their families, not the bureaucracy of government schools” or some equivalent is the usual construction. This money belongs to the deserving child, not the money-grubbing public school system. It’s a clear choice. And it’s a false choice.
The tax dollars associated with public schools belong to neither the child nor the school system.
Those tax dollars belong to the tax payers.
The foundation of public education is pretty simple. “Hey,” said the members of various communities. “Let’s put some money together and get the kids an education, because if they grow up stupid, we’ll have to live with and depend on a bunch of stupid adults, and that seems like a bad idea.”
Oh, “and we’ll elect some of us to keep an eye on the school and the money we pooled to run it.”
In fact, one the weird things about voucher-choice systems pushed by conservatives is how very un-conservative these concepts are.
Those communities did not say, “Let’s collect a bunch of money, give it to the parents, and they can spend it on their kids however they like.” That would be another entitlement, and conservatives are not huge fans of the E word. In fact, conservatives have been pretty vocally unfriendly to the idea of “free” college for any who want to attend, because it would just be another entitlement by which students would feel entitled to attend college paid for by tax dollars ripped from the public’s wallets.
But how is a voucher-choice system anything other than an entitlement for children to attend private school with tax dollars ripped from public wallets?
Conservatives also dislike it when publicly funded universities use public tax dollars to pay professors who say things with which some conservative taxpayers deeply disagree. How is a voucher-choice system any different– particularly in a place like Ohio where I can set up a charter based in Sharia Law or White Supremacy or Flat Earth Cosmology?
Because one thing is certain under a voucher-choice system– taxpayers without school age children have no voice in how education is managed in their community. Yes, public schools can make choices that the taxpayers hate– and then the taxpayers can come tell the elected school board how much they hate those choices, and the taxpayers can replace the board members with more amenable ones. In a voucher-choice system, if you have no child, you have no voice.
Conservative support for vouchers continues to mystify me. It’s a new entitlement. It’s taxation without representation. It’s also expensive– because as the public system loses money through vouchers, they have no choice but to raise taxes. Okay, that’s not entirely true– a community with a large majority of childless taxpayers could elect a board that gives everybody a huge tax cut and tells the voucherfied system, “Screw you. Go find the money for schools somewhere else.” And then the system would either collapse or need a government bailout.
So tell me again why conservatives love vouchers and choice?