Monday, January 25, 2016

Vouchers: Why Do Conservatives Love 'Em?

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?


  1. I'm pretty sure your question is tongue-in-cheek, but just in case it's not . . .

    Conservatives love vouchers because they hate teachers' unions. For some reason that becomes increasingly hard to understand, teachers' unions support the Democratic party. This they hate even more than teachers' unions. So anything they can do to destroy the teachers' union is good. The fact that many voucher schools hold conservative views is a bonus.

    Fairness has little to do with their thinking. Children have nothing to do with it.

  2. You also left out that beautiful Free Market part of the equation.

    This, of course, doesn't stop Reformers from leaving it out, at least insofar as it relates to the money their hedge fund managing friends can make. When it comes to School Competition and Charters Leaving TPS in the Dust, though, THEN the Free Market gets brought up over and over again.

    Funny how they fail to mention that the Free Market not only isn't free, but a rigged game. :-(

  3. Vouchers are also a way to get around separation of church and state and set up schools that represent a particular sectarian interest. They want to destroy the very thing that has let our society reduce religious discrimination.

  4. Polling on the question of vouchers show strongest support coming from African-Americans and low income parents. They love the idea as well. My guess is these groups have had seen enough of how the public schools operate and want an alternative now....not willing to await the bureaucracy to cough up another well intentioned but ineffective initiative.

  5. And as you should well know, spearheading the push for vouchers in the Pennsylvania legislature is Anthony Williams, the Democrat from Philadelphia.

    When you lost Philly Dems, you know your time is about up.

  6. I'd be willing to bet Anthony Williams is paid for that. Check out Polly Williams. Black Democrat from WI. Was paid heavily for her voucher support. Received the name "Mother of School Choice" from the choice proponents. WHY?! Because they USED her. Used her to get bills passed and then slowly ripped the law apart until it was nothing as when it started. Mrs. Polly Williams didn't like that and begin to push back. They ripped it all out from under her and left her out to hang. WHY?! She served her purpose. Just like Black Alliance for Educational Options. The DeVos are now behind that. They moved their good buddy Kevin Chavous over there. Democrats for Education Reform, same thing.

    Again, WHY?! Because the DeVos' figured out back in 2002 that they had to quit being the front face for the agenda or it would never get through. They found people to be their face. That's it.

    Here's a short clip

    But the full video is worth watching.