Putting vouchers to the test

J.H. Huebert points to this story as an example of the predicted conflict between publicly-funded vouchers and private freedom of association. A private Christian high school in Florida expelled a student after he admitted he was gay and refused to undergo counseling to change his sexual orientation.

But it's something that could happen at other Christian schools in Florida, even those that accept public money through the state's voucher program as Jupiter Christian does.

The law doesn't prohibit sexual discrimination at private schools, according to Howard Burke, executive director of the Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, which represents 170 conservative Christian schools in Florida.

Schools that accept disabled students using vouchers must comply with a federal code banning discrimination based on race, color or national origin -- but not sexuality, he says.

Will vouchers come with strings attached? Will these strings turn private schools into highly regulated, bureaucratically controlled clones of public schools?

As one who tentatively supports vouchers as the least-bad solution to the education problem, these are difficult questions for me to answer. Ideally, vouchers should be treated just like food stamps: no one raises a hissy fit if a poor person uses his or her food stamps to purchase Kosher, Halal, or other religiously associated food. But then, we do not live in an ideal world, and with the realities of the political process, it is almost certain that groups will push for - and succeed in getting - more and more restrictions placed on vouchers.

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One quibble--food stamps

One quibble--food stamps actually DO come with all kinds of restrictions on what can be bought with them.

Vouchers will almost certainly be used as the camel's nose in the tent to give the State more control over private schools.

I would prefer much less statist solutions. A step in the right direction would be to give a non-refundable property tax credit, equal to average per-pupil spending in the "public" schools, to private or home-schoolers.

The publick skool system itself, in the meantime, should be rendered less statist and more democratically subject to the will of parents. At the very least, I would support abolishing city-wide school boards and making each school's senior administration directly responsible to the parents of its students: a consumers' co-op, in other words.

Eventually, of course, we should move toward a completely voluntary, cost-based user fee system of funding. But state capitalist intervention in the marketplace has created such massive polarization of income, that it would be better first to remove such forms of intervention, and let labor have a while to actually keep its full product, before we start running services on a cost basis.

Our policy in dismantling the State should be to first go after the central, structural supports of political capitalism; and save the secondary forms of intervention, which make the system humanly tolerable for the non-privileged, for less.

Oops. "for last," I mean.

Oops. "for last," I mean.

Yes vouchers will eventually

Yes vouchers will eventually make the private schools that accept them into public schools.

Of course I don't approve of any kind of redistribution or social welfare but if you're going to do it Milton Friedman long ago pointed out the least bad way to do it: Just hand out cash. You could give every parent $X a year for each child of school age. And that's it, they can spend it any way they like.

Handing out cash to the

Handing out cash to the schools instead of the parents does seem like a recipe for disaster.

Not having thought about it too much, a first inclination is to suspect a similar problem as with California's fraudulent "deregulation"- its a halfway privatization that minimizes benefits and maximizes the chances for mischief, political or market-wise.