School Vouchers – A Conservative Nightmare
As an fiscal conservative, I find the school voucher thing to be one of the most non-conservative ideas out there. When it comes to economics, I’m pretty far right, in that I believe in free markets. The federal government providing vouchers for private schools is not free market at all. It’s not small government either. Often when the federal government throws money at a problem and up-ends the free market, they wind up making the costs higher in the long run. When the feds secured student loans and provided grants, it allowed people who couldn’t afford school to attend college. But over time, as colleges got free money from the feds, they just raised the costs of tuition to quintuple of what it was when I went to college in the 90s. When the adoption credit was installed, it allowed many families to be able to afford to adopt. But adoption agencies over time raised their rates since people were going to get up to a $13,400 tax credit anyway. I am afraid that the voucher system would do the same thing. It would make private school more affordable in the short run, but those schools will also raise their tuition since people will already get a voucher and will still be able to pay more. I grew up in a blue collar neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, and we had many cops, firemen, factory workers, tradesmen, etc. that sent their kids to Catholic school. It was possible because those schools were free market, and they had to keep their tuition affordable for the community that they served. I am afraid that over time, the voucher system will cause the tuition rates to rise past where these folks could afford it. It’s happened to colleges, so there’s no reason it can’t happen to private elementary and secondary schools.
From a small government standpoint, the voucher system fails. Instead of the feds being involved in public schools, they will be involved in every single school. My wife used to work for Bethany Christian services as an adoption counselor. The reason why they could have a statement of faith as a requirement is because they didn’t receive any federal funds. Now, you might think you have a very faith-friendly administration, but there’s no guarantee that it will stay that way. You may have a very faith-unfriendly administration next, and you may not like their input on religious education. But by that point, it’s too late. Schools are already dependent on Federal funds, families are already invested in their schools, and the law would be difficult to change.
So there’s some concession to the conservatives in that there could be a tax cut. However, since most public schools are funded through local and state taxes, the tax savings may not be much in the end. If the reduction in federal funding for public schools results in budget shortfalls, where do you think they will seek funding? Local and state taxes. So in the end, there is a strong possibility we may still have higher taxes.
So, coming from a conservative perspective of small government and free markets, I oppose vouchers. It will be a fiscal disaster for the ordinary citizen, and without a doubt, will affect our personal liberty in the long run.