Ryan Boots over at Edspresso hits Ohio’s new Governor Ted Strickland for claiming that vouchers are “inherently undemocratic.” Strickland thinks that vouchers are “inherently undemocratic” because “they allow public dollars to be used in ways and in settings where the public has little or no oversight,” and “those who are paying those tax dollars have no ability to vote for a board of education or to make determinations regarding curriculum, or discipline or admission policies or a whole range of things.”
As Ryan points out, this just isn’t the case with the highly (over)regulated EdChoice program, which encumbers participating schools with an array of restrictions that ensure no real market in education services will arise to serve the needs of the neediest children.
Even if Strickland’s fantasy voucher program did exist, however, the current system of government schooling is less democratic and more prone to corruption. The profligate spending, waste and outright fraud that characterize the government education system hardly suggest that it is subject to effective public oversight.
And for good reason … it is controlled by the education-industrial complex, aka “Big Ed,” which short-circuits all political attempts to direct it for the public good. Big Ed controls board of education elections as well as “determinations regarding curriculum, or discipline or admission policies or a whole range of things.” That’s why exasperated policy experts with no love of the free market are calling for parental choice in education and why parents are desperate to escape a system they pay for but can’t control.
But Strickland does hit on one good point, buried though it may be beneath a pile of misconceptions and delusions. “Those who are paying those tax dollars” for education should be able to direct their money to the kind of education that they support. Agreed.
Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for kids to learn about condoms in the 3rd grade or abstinence-only in the 12th grade. Forcing all parents to educate their children in the same way is a recipe for irresolvable value conflicts and civic strife. Disbursing general revenues for education forces some people to pay for education with which they disagree.
Education tax credits allow every taxpayer to support the kind of education they want to and force no one to pay for education to which they object. Tax credits create a public education system where schools are accountable to the parents who choose them and the people who pay for them … not through a corrupt political process beholden to Big Ed, but directly accountable to the people themselves.
That is true oversight. That is a democratic system of education. If Strickland can’t support vouchers, he certainly has no reason to oppose education tax credits. Other than fealty to Big Ed over our children.