Government funding private education is not the solution
I recently attended a conservative policy event that focused in part on promoting the benefits of universal school choice. It reaffirmed my opposition to this legislative trend, even though such laws would be financially lucrative to my business and me personally. The Texas state legislature last week removed universal school choice from a massive reform package. Lawmakers were wise to do so, for several reasons.
First, school choice fosters economic dependency on government funding. Second, it is not a “free-market” solution. Finally, it isn’t a
conservative policy, even if the big think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity have jumped on board the taxpayer gravy train. Hats off to Texas legislators for not jumping into the deep end with Senate Bill 1, as other states have done and, I believe, will later regret.
Have you seen the shirt that says, “I don’t co-parent with the government”? If universal school choice is enacted, then everyone will be co-parenting with the government.
Demand-side economics is why we’ve experienced massive inflation around the United States. A Heritage Foundation study that concluded Arizona-style education savings accounts are not inflationary is deceptive, in part because the study’s authors didn’t use data that reflects the current laws being passed. The Heritage study based its findings on school choice that targets individuals with learning disabilities and low incomes, as opposed to people already paying for their child’s private education.
In short, Heritage compared apples to oranges and advocates oranges because of apples. That isn’t sound reasoning.
Besides, since when has relying on the government to subsidize healthy middle-class and rich families’ income ever been considered “conservative” policy?
Government funding of school choice creates economic dependency, it is not a free-market solution, and it isn’t a conservative policy in any sense of the term.
Advocates of universal vouchers and ESAs argue they are a “free-market” solution. Not really. Someone pushing universal school choice once told me that a free market is when the government gives everyone the same amount of money and they can spend it anywhere they want. All I could think of was Inigo Montoya from “The
Princess Bride”: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Investopedia defines a “free market” as “one where voluntary exchange and the laws of supply and demand provide the sole basis for the economic system, without government intervention.” Clearly, the government giving families $8,000 a year, sourced from their neighbors’ taxes, is
not a free-market solution.
A system of universal basic education income is not a conservative policy. It is a neo-liberal policy. Just wait for Amazon, Disney, Microsoft, and Apple to start buying up schools and implementing their ESG goals on all private school platforms. Wait until they start data-mining your kids. Just wait for China to start buying up private school platforms and data-mining your children.
Let me leave you with a story. My friend Rachel is a leader for
Classical Conversations in Arizona, and we don’t let our Christian leaders take neo-liberal school choice funds. She was recently talking to a friend who had taken the ESA money and was so happy to have the funds.
“I used to have to work part-time to homeschool,” her friend told her. “I would have my aunt come over and watch the kids for me so that I could go to work. Now I don’t have to do that!”
Rachel, being trained in the tools of rhetoric, politely replied: “So let me make sure I understand what you’re saying. You used to rely on hard work and your family, and now you rely on the government.” Her friend’s eyes got wide as she began to realize what she had done.
I would urge legislators to drop school choice proposals altogether, until we have a better idea of how programs that have already passed in other states are working. States’ tax receipts are starting to plummet as the looming recession becomes more apparent. A state surplus in funds can quickly turn into a deficit, and welfare programs like school choice are notoriously hard to repeal, even when they become economically unsustainable.
Government funding of school choice creates economic dependency, it is not a free-market solution, and it simply isn’t a conservative policy in any sense of the term.
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