Published in The Orlando Sentinel, November 28, 1998
Taxpayer vouchers allowing students to attend private
schools is a bad idea whose time may have come
It's a bad idea, despite the growing hype for it, for a
number of reasons. Mixing public funds in private
institutions is never a good idea. A great deal of the
mischief done in this country is by private groups
financed by the federal government.
Government and private business should be kept as
separate as government and church. I don't know of any
instance in which mixing public funds with private funds
has produced a good result.
So that's one general reason vouchers are a bad idea.
Another reason is that private schools that accept
public-financed vouchers soon will find themselves
controlled by federal and state bureaucrats. Any
private-school administrator who doesn't believe this is
naive. Control follows funds like the hind end of a hog
follows the head. The long-term result will be that
private schools will become as bad as government
Still another reason vouchers are a bad idea is that they
being sold on a false premise. The sales pitch for
vouchers goes like this: Poor students trapped in "bad
schools" should have the opportunity to go to private
That's false because what makes a bad school bad is not
the faculty or the building or the location -- but the
students. Bad students will turn a school into a bad
school whether it's private or public. In fact, the virtue
private schools is that they can reject the bad students.
Once they start down the road of accepting public funds, however, this option will be closed to them by the
The guiding principle of the current ruling elite or
knowledge class or whatever you want to call it is that
people are never responsible for themselves. Thus, if the
students score poorly, it is not the fault of the
must be the fault of the teachers or the administrators or
some unknown cosmic forces, they assert. The simple
truth is that the fault lies with the student and no one
This non-responsibility ploy not only fits the determinist
model, but it also saves cowardly politi-cians from
having to tell sorry students and often even-sorrier
parents the truth: The hole you are in is the hole you dug
yourself. God only knows that the last thing a politician
wants to say these days to anyone is you're responsible
for your own fate.
Another reason to oppose vouchers is that it will end up
being a subsidy for the well-off. The poor-kid ploy is the
sales pitch, but let it take hold and you'll find out that
kids whose parents are able to pay the difference
between the voucher and the private-school tuition will
be those from middle- and upper-income families. Once
more the working, single mom in a dangerous,
convenience-store job will end up subsidizing the
lawyer, the journalist, the executive, the doctor and the
Another false premise used to sell the idea of vouchers is
the assertion that government schools will be forced to
become competitive. Government schools cannot
compete in any sense of that word. They are
government schools, creatures of the law and politics.
Faculty, its pay, and the curricula are determined not by
the schools but by politicians, bureaucrats and, in some
To state that public schools can compete with private
schools is like saying a bronze statue of a horse can run
a race with a live horse.
(C) copyright 1998 The Orlando Sentinel
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