School Choice is Free-market Alternative

Published February 13, 2018

A recent series published by The Huffington Post, created in conjunction with an Indiana media company, examines Indiana’s “booming” school choice program and “highlights the benefits and battles over vouchers.”

The exposé’s subtitle accurately — whether it does so on purpose, I don’t know — identifies vouchers’ “benefits and battles,” not “benefits and disadvantages.”

It’s true there are many battles being waged against vouchers, as well as all education choice programs, but it’s not because, as The Huffington Post piece asserts, they offer limited benefits to students.

In fact, the “problems” voucher critics tie to the program don’t seem to be problems for families but for public school sycophants.

“The way it was rolled out was perceived to be more of a focus on our most at-risk students — to get them out of situations where public schools weren’t performing,” said Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick in the article.

“Now when you look at the data, it has become clear that the largest growing area is suburban white students who have never been to public school,” McCormick added.

Of course, it makes sense to help the neediest kids first, but McCormick doesn’t say middle-class white kids are crowding out low-income minority kids, or even that the presence of suburban white kids harms the voucher system.

So why does she want to stop these families from having access to choice programs?

If public schools are failing poor and minority children, it’s not off-base to assume the same schools aren’t doing much better for middle-class kids. Furthermore, doesn’t it make sense more kids participating in the voucher program would result in additional and varied schools to cater to everyone’s demands, regardless of demographics?

“The latest report on the Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program,” the article says, “shows that less than 1 percent of those with vouchers came from a failing public school. And most of those using vouchers have never attended an Indiana public school.”

This observation makes it sound as though never having been forced to attend a school you hate is a bad thing. Must students suffer through an ill-fitting, often failing government school system before they earn the right to escape from it?

The article goes on to attempt to address an erroneous and irrelevant criticism school choice programs constantly must fight off: They divert much-needed funding away from public schools. A voucher proponent quoted in the story attempts to defend against this accusation by pointing out only about 3 percent of Indiana students use vouchers, but that’s a terrible argument that misses the point of education choice entirely.

The goal is to give every child — regardless of race, income level, or anything else — options when it comes to education.

Additionally, the argument voucher programs defund public schools is a myth. As Jeffrey Dorfman pointed out in Forbes in 2016, “Most school choice programs involve some reallocation of money from public schools to other forms of educational spending, such as private school tuition. This does not leave public schools worse off if the amount of funding they lose per student is less than the marginal cost of educating a student.”

Wendy Robinson, Fort Wayne Community Schools superintendent, then was quoted, as part of her defense of having traditional public schools getting all the available government funds, “It’s morally wrong to turn children into the objects of a business model.”

But is it morally correct to turn children into the objects of teachers unions, which use the cash to collect higher salaries, cushier benefits and plush pensions? And what’s wrong with an educational business model, anyway?

I assume Robinson enjoys shopping at stores that operate as businesses. They recognize a need, deliver a product or service and then either thrive or close.

The reason Indiana public schools, as well as schools across the country, fear school choice is because they know their one-size-fits-all monopoly doesn’t have what it takes to compete against free-market alternatives.

[Originally Published at the Northwest Indiana Times]