Between books, I’ve made the unfortunate decision to start reading more news. It’s a horrible habit that rarely improves one’s quality of life, but it gets me fired up and wanting to give my two cents on certain issues.
School choice is one of them, particularly since it’s shaping up to be a major point of contention in the coming election cycle.
For those unfamiliar, school choice describes the proposal to “give parents state money to send their kids to schools outside of the state’s public education system.”
First of all, I HATE — with a passion fierier than the flames of Mordor — when money is described as “state money,” “government money,” or “public funds.”
Money doesn’t magically appear in government coffers. Politicians get money by taxing you (or borrowing in your name). Either way, it’s taxpayer money. Taxpayers foot the bill for everything the government does (and wastes).
So let’s reframe this. People pay taxes. The government pools that money, then sends a percentage back to the community with each child attending a public school.
However, politicians make a few changes to that money while it’s in their hot little hands. First, they siphon off their salaries, pet projects, etc. Then they tie a massive string around it, saying they won’t give it back unless your child attends the public school where your residence is zoned, regardless of whether it’s a safe, educational environment (many aren’t). Oh, and the school has sole discretion over how your money is spent.
With school choice, the state says: “Look, you still have to give us your money. We’re still going to siphon off our salaries and pet projects, but instead of ONLY sending that money back to the community if your kids go to the local public school, we’ll let you decide where to send them.”
As the name implies, school choice = you have a choice when it comes to your children’s school.
Traditionally, families who opt out of public school are SOL financially. Their tax bill stays the same, so they have to start from scratch if they prefer private school/religious school/homeschool, etc.
This means only the wealthiest families really have a say in where their kids go to school. Lower-income families are almost universally restricted to public schools, regardless of whether they’re safe or educational. I find this to be very morally troubling.
For the vast majority of families, an extra $5k-43k in your pocket to spend on education each year is a HUGE DEAL! The amount varies depending on your state and circumstances (the number is significantly higher for children with disabilities), but the ramifications are enormous. This could free millions of students from the juvenile prisons that pass for public schools in many cities.
States like Arizona have taken it a step further, providing families who opt out of public school an Education Scholarship Fund — and this even applies to homeschoolers — where the family has almost complete discretion over how that money is spent (provided it’s education-related). Basically, they tell the state they aren’t using the public school, then they get a bank account that can be used for tuition, books, tutors, uniforms, etc.
I have mixed feelings about this when it comes to homeschoolers, actually. For 99.9% of them, it makes perfect sense. They pay for their children’s education through taxes, so just like everyone else, part of their tax bill is being returned to them to pay for their children’s education.
But unfortunately there are a lot of bad people out there, and I’d hate to see a system inadvertently incentivize deadbeats to “homeschool” just so they can get some extra cash, especially considering you get more money for more children, so these numbers can add up quickly.
There are safeguards in place to prevent this, but somehow criminals always find a way to break the law. Weird how that works.
The media would have you believe that teachers are opposed to school choice. Some are, of course, for 100% valid reasons. We can all believe whatever we want. However, one can’t help but notice that staggering amounts of money changes hands in our education system, and school choice threatens one of the biggest benefactors: unions.
In a recent article titled, “Texas Teachers…Speak Out Against School Choice Vouchers,” the reader should note that the signs were printed by the American Federation of Teachers, the representatives were from the American Federation of Teachers, and the grammatically-incorrect chant, “More funding and less vouchers!” was shouted by members of the Texas American Federation of Teachers. (Sidebar, if teachers are behind this, that’s even more concerning because apparently they’re incapable of using proper grammar for even a five-word slogan. *Fewer* vouchers, friends, not less.)
The unions’ antipathy for school choice isn’t hard to understand. If families opt out of public schools, that means fewer unionized teachers, which means fewer union bosses making $450,000 a year and controlling hundreds of millions of dollars.
Experts broadly agree that the majority of union dues don’t actually go to helping teachers. Rather, much of that money is spent on political donations (94% of which go to Democratic politicians or leftwing organizations) and overhead (AKA salaries, offices, luxury travel in the name of lobbying, etc).
There is nothing wrong with generous salaries or luxury travel. In fact, that’s the goal!
What’s not OK is that teachers are essentially strong-armed into surrendering a portion of their salary to a union, which uses that money to influence politicians, who in turn force teachers to continue toiling for the union by blocking other options.
For actual, living teachers — not the avaricious unions and politicians claiming to represent their interests — school choice is a good thing. If parents and students think a school sucks, there’s a good chance the teachers do, too. School choice also means more choices for teachers.
Alright, there’s my two cents. More choice for parents. Less government control. Fewer union reps shouting grammatically-incorrect slogans into the conflict for their own benefit.
Where am I wrong? I genuinely want to know! If you oppose school choice, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time!
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