The Cleveland school-voucher program, now before the Supreme Court, ought not to have been positioned as a “state-church” issue. At the core of whether parents can receive a taxpayer-funded stipend and spend it in a school of their choice – religious establishment included – is the legitimacy of State involvement in the enterprise of education, not the God-State animus.
But first, back to basics.
Education is not a right. The only constitutional rights people possess are to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. The right to go about one’s business unmolested and unharmed – and to take the actions necessary to sustain life without harming or encroaching on others – is man’s only natural right. This right is what government must legitimately protect. By extension, any right that depends for its existence on the labor of another is not a right. To the extent government manufactures and reinforces these non-rights, it is an entity of thieves and feudal lords.
Where the legislator has deployed the force of the law to transform so many human needs into inalienable rights, he can then step in and declare the thwarting of these bogus rights an actionable violation of “human rights.”
But just because some service or commodity has, by government fiat, been declared a right, doesn’t mean that it will now fall abundantly like manna from the heavens. The costs of the commodity or service don’t magically dissipate. Someone must work to pay for and supply subsidized housing, health care or education. So long as this is the case, these are never rights, but politically counterfeited rights.
It flows from this that all government programs are immoral and unconstitutional, the education monopoly included. Parents have a right to earn the money with which to educate their young. They don’t have the right to compel the childless, the home-schooler, the private school user – nor anyone really – to pay for public-education or school-voucher options.
Educational vouchers and charter schools are a species of the publicly funded system.
The support for these educational options is understandable. Few systems boast incentives more perverse than public education, where teacher’s tenure – not merit – is remunerated, students with an “appetite for destruction” are coddled with therapy, and school failure is rewarded with an increased budget. And these are the least-offensive facets of child-centered, progressive public education. It’s a sluggard of a system, and it’s turning out bumper crops of ignoramuses, which, all too often, have no more than dangerously inflated self-esteems to show for years of compulsory attendance.
The more sluggish a system, the more likely it is to respond well to competition, which explains why educational alternatives do yield statistically significant, positive results.
Introducing market principles to the pedagogic Gulag, however, is not the route!
Tweaking a system that is founded on moral quicksand is not the answer!
The answer lies in working to replace public with private, consumer-responsive, unregulated, independent education. To this end, cutting taxes drastically will allow more people to afford and support private schooling.
Bear in mind that where public money is spent, demand for regulation invariably follows. Vouchers allow the financially needy to obtain tax-funded scholarships for private schools. Private education will be tainted by money pilfered from the taxpayer. And school vouchers will have turned what remains of America’s independent schools into politicized, subsidy-seeking wards of the state, willing to replace canon and curriculum with politically correct indoctrination.
Those who object to vouchers because they threaten the hegemony of the hallowed public-education monopoly, or because they spawn segregation – can, unfortunately, rest assured. By improving it, vouchers further strengthen and entrench the public system.
As to segregation: Egalitarians, sadly, have cause to rejoice yet again. Vouchers follow the anti-private property, freedom-sabotaging tradition of forced integration.
Right now, many suburban schools are half decent because control over neighborhood schools has devolved to the community. The school will typically reflect the locality in terms of its composition and the kind of values it espouses. The egalitarian, socialist voucher privilege will eliminate local control, as inner-city kids are palmed off on suburban communities. Choice for some, once again, will come at the expense of choice for others, in this case, local property owners who foot the lion’s share of the tax bill.
It was the mother of all voucher systems, the post-World War II G.I. Bill, that truly centralized American higher education. Under the guise of educating veterans, the G.I. Bill authorized a massive infusion of tax dollars, creating a coercive plan to entrench social-democratic welfarism, purge “traditional notions of merit and class,” and replace academic excellence with “social justice” and political correctness.
Strip them of their fig leaf, and vouchers are no better.