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The Education Liberator, Vol. 2, No. 8, October 1996

Vouchers: No, but...
Taxpayer help to parents will advance separation

by David Barulich

The following are some arguments advanced by Freedom Lovers Against Vouchers (FLAVs), and my rebuttals:

FLAV #1. Involuntary use of other people's money is always wrong. This is a version of the "means justifies the ends" school of moral thought shared by pacifists, anti-vivisectionists, tax-avoiders, and many SepSchoolers. It's a neat system because you never have to deal with tradeoffs and lesser evils.

Those of us who believe tax-financed private education options are the best route toward eventual Separation, also believe that means and ends must be judged together. While coerced redistribution of wealth may be evil, adopting the Dewey-Fritz approved list of political actions would be just as evil, because they are ineffective and will only perpetuate redistributionist policies into the future.

FLAV #2. Taxpayer support of education undermines parents' responsibility for their children's education.

A parent who sends a child to an institutional facility called school (public or private) instead of homeschooling, has already partially abdicated his responsibility for that child's education. If taxpayer support of private education allowed for payments to homeschoolers, it's conceivable parental responsibility would actually increase. A tax-supported homeschooled child will usually be better off than a self-financed, private-schooled child.

I know lots of parents who took great pains to earn sufficient incomes to afford a home in a "good" school district. They aren't welfare recipients when, over the course of their lifetime, they pay taxes exceeding the public school's costs of educating their children. Have they exercised any less fiscal responsibility than parents who send their children to private school?

The "public school is welfare" argument is as convincing as arguing that tax-financed police and fire services undermine the self-reliance exhibited by home defense and bucket brigades.

FLAV #3: Taxpayer assistance for private education will expand dependency from 88% to nearly 100% of parents.

Parents with school-aged children comprise approximately 25% of the electorate. Eighty-eight percent of 25% equals 22%. Offering taxpayer assistance for private education adds a paltry 3% of the electorate to the dole. This is an insignificant political obstacle to garnering support for Separation.

Until the power of public school employee unions is weakened by re-directing tax dollars away from their coffers, we won't see many reductions in government schooling expenditures. Directing those dollars to private schools might increase the breadth of recipients, but it will reduce the depth of support for government aid.

FLAV #4: Providing vouchers to private schools will bring government regulations, as it has in European countries that assist private education.

I agree, vouchers as currently conceived would bring government regulations. However, education performance grants (EPGs), an alternative means of taxpayer assistance for private education, would insulate private schools from government regulations.

My own "Charter Students" plan would award government-financed EPGs to students not in public schools who receive passing scores on the same examinations public school students must pass. Examinations would be developed and scored by private companies, and students would have the option of selecting from different companies' exams.

EPGs are paid to families, not schools. EPGs are fungible; no strings are attached to how they're spent. EPGs provide accountability to taxpayers without regulating private schools. You don't have to attend a "school" in order to receive an EPG. There are no church-state obstacles to implementation of EPGs.

Achievement of Separation will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. Some form of taxpayer financing of private education, such as EPGs, would be a step along the path.

David Barulich is a Los Angeles-based education policy consultant, homeschooler, and former voucher advocate.

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