I’m starting a blog post on this StateImpact entry entitled Proposed Bill Would Increase Number Of Students Eligible For School Vouchers because it triggered a raging debate on my Facebook page. We’ll see if the same happens here.
In the Facebook entry, I commented on the link by saying that this voucher program is starting to look a lot less like a subsidy for poor, public school kids who would like to go to private school and a lot more like a wealth transfer to wealthier families who already send their kids to private school.
This started a debate on just who and what public school tax dollars are for. My awesome wife made a few points, but I took the most significant two as being: 1) Kids cost different amounts to educate; and 2) our tax dollars are paying for an educated public, not for the education of our individual children.
The counter point was along the lines that “you should be allowed to use the money you pay for education to go to the education of your child;” and “in a free country, you should have the freedom to say where the money you pay for education goes.”
I don’t think the counter really counters the first two points. First, we don’t do this in other areas of government. For example, I can’t demand my road dollars go to paving the roads I drive on when the highway department determines that roads I don’t drive on are falling apart.
Second, kids aren’t widgets. Some are harder to educate than others. If Johnny costs $500 to educate, Billy costs $1,500 to educate, we can’t average it out to $1,000 per kid. If Johnny leaves for private school with a $1,000 voucher, then Billy’s school is in a -$500 hole trying to educate him. The dirty little secret is that Johnny’s parents have been subsidizing Billy’s education with their tax dollars. But, this isn’t really a dirty little secret, because it’s always been very clear that the childless neighbor down the street has been subsidizing both of the kids’ education.
Education is a public good. It’s not an individual entitlement, and we should stop going down the road of treating it like one.