Be Wary of School Vouchers [Opinion]
School vouchers have been used in Ireland, Sweden, Chile and other countries for decades. Numerous groups, individuals and politicians have been stumping for vouchers in America at least since the Reagan Administration. It allows the use of public funds for private school education. The debate over fair and equitable school funding has been going on for what seems like an eternity. What is fair for one will always seem unfair to another. And equitably is very subjective. Welcome to human nature. This battle has no end.
Proponents argue that vouchers create competition that will force public schools to improve. Opponents argue the vouchers pull funds away from already underfunded public schools. Let’s be honest; when it comes to any government entity, enough is never enough. You could give every school district in Texas $10 million per student and someone would argue it’s not enough. Currently, Texas spends a little less than $10,000 per student per school year.
While many parents view the voucher idea as the solution to allowing parents to give their children a shot at a better education, we all need to be wary of this idea. The reason is simple: the government (state or federal) never dangles a carrot in front of anyone that does not come with some mighty tough strings attached. If you think that you won’t be subjected to the dictatorial hand of regulations, think again.
I think the biggest threat will be to homeschoolers. Any ‘school choice’ legislation that does make it to the governor’s desk (eventually) will likely contain language that may allow homeschoolers to be reimbursed somehow for the costs of so-called ‘legitimate’ curriculum materials. Here’s where the first of many big strings could wrap itself around the necks of homeschool parents.
Once you begin to seek the government's help in paying for anything, you can expect some government agency somewhere to try and regulate you in some way. Their justification will be that you are, after all, using the public’s money to help educate your child and you, therefore, should be held to the same ‘standards’ as public schools.
I’ve met few people connected to the government run school system who didn’t want to kill homeschooling altogether. Never mind that, even if you withdraw your child from public school to home or private school, you are still paying taxes to the school district in which you live. For many of the opponents, it’s not so much the money aspect, but the control. When your child is home schooled or enrolled in a private school, the public school officials no longer have any control over that student.
In Texas, homeschooling has been codified as a non-accredited private school. Upon reading SB 3, I found no language specific to homeschooling. It’s this lack of clarity in SB 3 that should be of concern. As of May 12, the bill has been sent to the Public Education Committee. While the status of homeschooling in Texas may be covered under the current language, who knows what a legislature five or ten years down the road may do. How any future bills concerning vouchers are worded needs to be under our microscope. What's more, if a court decides to alter how homeschools are defined in Texas, things could turn ugly for homeschool families almost immediately. Be careful what you ask for.