Vouchers Are Bad News for Freedom Lovers
by Marshall Fritz
July 19, 2002
Liberals have played Bre’r Rabbit on vouchers. The Supreme Fox — at the request of conservatives and libertarians — has just thrown the liberals into the briar patch they love: More-Big-Government and Less-Self-Reliance. Indeed, vouchers will harm education in four ways:
- Vouchers come with strings attached. These soon become chains. Since government will write the tuition check, even if the parents deliver it, government will become the dominant customer for private education. (Voucher advocates make big noises about eternal vigilance, but these silent watchdogs have shown their true colors by failing to complain about the admissions lottery in the Cleveland voucher model.)
- Vouchers entice into dependency today’s self-reliant families who are paying for private schooling. These new recipients of OPM (Other People’s money) will be weakened as are all welfare recipients.
- Vouchers blindfold or hamstring the private school admissions office, resulting in the number of troublemakers gradually increasing to unmanageable proportions.
- Vouchers prevent cost breakthroughs. Who’s going to invent a high quality $2000/year school if the voucher is 4-, 6-, or 8-thousand dollars? In fact, vouchers will raise costs of schooling just as has government involvement in health care and colleges.
These four factors will gradually change the culture of private schools to be public school look-alikes, albeit run by private operators. Do any of us think Mussolini improved socialism by allowing private ownership?
We tell teenagers to think ahead, indeed, to learn from other’s mistakes. Let’s follow our own advice by learning from government involvement in health care.
Today’s conservatives and libertarians are not happy with the huge government involvement in health care. But 60 years ago, how many conservatives fought against making medical insurance tax-favored (i.e., deductible to the employer, not reportable as income by the employee)? Not enough, that’s for sure. But from that little nose under the tent, the government camel has driven prudence and self-reliance downward and costs and demands for welfare upward.
Witness grandparents wanting to grab their grandchildren’s wages to pay for their “right to free or cheap pharmaceuticals.”
Tax-funded school vouchers are the same type of Subtle-But-Big-Mistake.
I’ll admit I was snookered, too, until Prof. Dwight Lee unmasked the liberal Bre’r Rabbit ploy in the July, 1986, Ideas on Liberty (then called The Freeman), p 247: “If the move to purely private schools begins to accelerate, the public school lobby can, and surely will, protect its privileged position by embracing educational vouchers.” Lee went on to predict that “if the voucher approach to education ever becomes a serious political possibility, it will be as a means of reducing competition in education, not increasing it.”
In blunt-speak, the Left is going to implement the voucher, not the Right. Lee’s insight was confirmed by Marshall Smith, then dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education, later Undersecretary of Education for Clinton. He wrote — in educationese — the game plan for the Left in the Politics of Education Association Yearbook in 1990, p 25: “The state curriculum frameworks would establish a protective structure that would help ensure that all schools were attempting to provide a challenging and progressive curriculum. The teacher training reforms and the stimulations of curriculum materials by the state would help make high-quality resources available to all the schools. Perhaps of most importance, the state examinations based on the curriculum frameworks would provide valid data about student outcomes to help parents and students make their choice among schools.”
So what happens next? Unless they come to their senses and start fighting vouchers, conservatives and libertarians will help liberals increase the number of families on the edu-dole and the number of schools under the thumb of the state.
Only a few schools catering to the rich or the stubborn will continue without government aid. Most private and religious schools will take the voucher because if they don’t they’ll lose their customers to the new school down the street. Look at colleges: The GI Bill, Pell grants, and government-backed loans have made sure there is no difference between Notre Dame and Michigan State. They both serve their paying customer, government.
Some think tax-credits are better than vouchers, but ultimately they are only camouflaged vouchers. Charter schools are just public schools on a longer leash.
A dog on a long leash is still a dog on a leash.
Conservatarians must see that there’s no way to get good education based on coercion. Let’s stop helping liberals expand government. Instead, declare yourself in favor of separating school and state.
Marshall Fritz was the Founder and Chairman of the Alliance for the Separation of School & State, based in Fresno, California. This article was originally published under the name “Bad News for Freedom-Lovers” in LewRockwell.com.
This article is copyrighted by the Alliance for the Separation of School & State. Permission is granted to freely distribute this article as long as this copyright notice is included in its entirety.