Alliance for the Separation of School & State
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The Education Liberator, Vol. 2, No. 8, October 1996

Short takes on vouchers

The public stake

A democracy depends on an educated citizenry. One could argue that schooling is not necessary to education and, as many have suggested, may even be counterproductive to it. But until public policies reflect that view, we will continue to have schooling at a cost which only the entire society can afford.

To move to entire Separation would be a major upheaval and require massive and costly social engineering. On the other hand, a small change in public policy, whereby we recognize that it is in the public interest to encourage the use of independent schools (through tax credits or vouchers), will bring about Separation in a way that is natural, gradual, and least disruptive.

John D. Schiavone
Kingsville, Maryland


Creating a two-fold list of Freedom Lovers for Tax-Funded Vouchers and Freedom Lovers Against Vouchers is a good idea. Keeping in mind, however, that the real enemy is the government education lobby, some form of communication between the two groups of freedom lovers should be encouraged.

As to the pro tax-funded voucher group, though, I confess my inability to understand how any good parent could teach a child that it is morally wrong to steal from a neighbor on one hand, while encouraging one's lawmakers to steal for him on the other. Neither can I understand how any parent can declare for independence and personal responsibility while admitting implicitly that the advocates of collective responsibility (socialism) are right.

Edward P. Scharfenberger
St. Stephen-St. Edward Educational Trust; Warwick, New York

More regulation not likely

If the choice were government-financed vouchers versus no government involvement in education, I'd choose the latter. But if the question involves vouchers versus public schools, those favoring Separation can disagree.

Two strong arguments favor vouchers:

  1. Non-discrimination. It is unfair for government to condition its financial support of education on attendance at its schools. This is particularly true in the U.S. where public schools are constitutionally handicapped in affirming the religious values of parents.

  2. Efficiency. Bureaucratic production of a good or service increases costs by a factor of two. This waste is substantially reduced through privatization, contracting-out and vouchers. The efficiency gain from vouchers will result in higher quality, greater variety, and reduced cost.

There is one, largely false argument against vouchers: That some private-schoolers and homeschoolers will accept greater government regulation in return for the vouchers.

The number who cross over will depend on the extent to which additional regulations are attached to vouchers. These people already forgo "free" public schools. Not many will accept a huge increase in regulation for a voucher.

What is the alternative to vouchers (or tax credits)? To keep the remnant in the non-government sector pure, and write off other people's children? Or, to wait until things get so bad that people finally turn to the "real" alternative? Neither of these is attractive.

Clifford F. Thies
Durell Professor of Money
Banking and Finance
Shenandoah University
Winchester, Virginia

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