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Government Funding = Government
By David W. Kirkpatrick (October 11, 2007)
Senior Education Fellow
U.S. Freedom Foundation www.freedomfoundation.us
A common argument against public funding of parental choice of education is the claim that it would result in government regulations harmful to nongovernment schools. Some fear that such regulation would so burden independent schools as to put them out of business, or make them virtually indistinguishable from public schools.
This argument is too often used by, and/or effective with, those who might otherwise be among the strongest supporters of generally available publicly funded student grants.
People who sing the song of excessive regulation tend to accept it as a given but rarely cite evidence to support their fears. In fact, aid to individuals, such as the various GI Bills, college grants at the state and federal level, food stamps, etc.., are not heavily regulated. It is institutional aid that leads to government regulations since institutions are not accountable to those they serve for the expenditures of the public funds they receive.
When funds are made available for individuals to make their own decisions, and the money goes with them if they move from one institution to another, meaningful accountability can occur. When funds go to institutions, such as the public schools, they may to some degree be held responsible for accounting for the money, but are less often held to any meaningful standards as to the results.
Those who would support government funded school-choice programs were it not for their fear of regulations play into the hands of defenders of the status quo. Ironically, they also increase the degree of government controls because they force more students to attend or remain in the heavily regulated public schools.
The 1925 U.S. Supreme Court Pierce decision declared that "[t]he child is not the mere creature of the State," and that school choice is a constitutional right. However, the Court also said "No question is raised concerning the power of the state to reasonably regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise, and examine them, their teachers and pupils, to require that all children of proper age attend some school, that teachers should be of good moral character and patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught and that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare."
The statement "that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare," offers a counter argument to the fear that funding students will lead to schools established by witches, the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads, or the David Dukes of the nation since the government clearly can not only regulate such schools, it can prohibit them altogether.
Just two years after the Pierce decision, the Supreme Court demonstrated that when it said the power to regulate must be reasonable it meant it. It invalidated a Hawaiian law setting teacher qualifications, textbook content, and requiring that teachers pledge to "direct the mind and studies of pupils in such schools as will tend to make them good and loyal American citizens."
While having all youngsters become "good and loyal American citizens," is a laudable goal, it is arrogant for legislatures to define what "good and loyal" means, to assume that it won't happen without their mandate, and/or to think that they can bring it about by fiat.
That regulations tend to be inversely related to the number of those who can exercise choice is demonstrated by programs such as those mentioned earlier, the GI Bills, et al, and by the fact that a state such as Pennsylvania, which has a significant proportion of nonpublic school students, has fewer regulations than many states with a lower proportion.
This was dramatically demonstrated some years ago when Congressman George Miller (D-CA) introduced legislation that was interpreted as meaning nonpublic schools would be have to hire only certified teachers. The result was such a storm of protest, and the swamping of Congressional offices with phone calls, mail and email, that when the House voted on the amendment only Miller was vote for it.
In brief, with public funding of student choice everyone can decide whether to participate or not. Where such a program is blocked, no one has a choice. Why should those wanting no options be able to deny them to others.
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"America's decision to have its public schools funded by a government monopoly is stunningly stupid. Having a union-dominated monopoly run them is even stupider. Unionized monopolies create ossified, bloated bureaucracies that don't serve people well." p. 107, John Stossel, Myths, Lies ands Downright Stupidity, NY: Hyperion, 2006
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Copyright 2007 David W. Kirkpatrick
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Douglassville, Pennsylvania 19518-9240
Phone: (610) 689-0633