Vouchers: Free Ride or Hidden Trap?
By Lynda Friesen
Deeply concerned for the children suffering under our humanistic and monopolistic public education system, people are desperate for change. Some are embracing the concept of vouchers as a panacea for society’s ills.
Arguments abound from all sides. The NEA-type professional educators are strongly opposed to vouchers for reasons which are largely self-serving. Many who desire to break the public school monopoly and secure the benefits of private education for all children believe vouchers are the answer. Yet there is intense disagreement among private school advocates as to the wisdom of obtaining government subsidies for private education.
In the final analysis, this issue must be assessed on the basis of Biblical principle and fact, not by endorsements of individuals or organizations. Let us, like the noble Bereans (Acts 17:10-11), not rely on the word of even recognized Christian leaders, but search the Scriptures, to see what is consistent with Biblical principles.
The Fabian Society of England strongly supported government subsidies to private Christian schools in the early 1900s. To answer protests from within the Society, George Bernard Shaw pointed out that state aid was the quickest route to destroying the freedom, independence, and faith of those schools. Shaw counted on the strings attached to government support to fulfill his vision. The subsequent destruction of the Christian school movement in England proved him correct.
Shockingly, even while promoting vouchers, some Christian leaders are openly admitting that such subsidies jeopardize the freedoms and autonomy of private schools. A spokesman affiliated with a large, national pro-family organization wrote, “[T]he risk of private school sovereignty is necessary if…students are to be freed from the largely incapable public schools.”
Schools which accept vouchers will no longer be truly private institutions. Addressing educational choice, Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander redefined public schools: “A public school would become any school that receives students who brought with them public monies….” Rather than break up the public school monopoly, vouchers would enlarge it; and in the name of “choice,” our choices would be diminished.
Many proponents erroneously insist they have precluded intrusive government regulations through carefully crafted wording in their proposals. This raises a question of principle: May private institutions receiving public monies legitimately conspire to avoid public accountability?
Outraged that our taxes fund pornographic and sacrilegious “art” through the National Endowment for the Arts, we demand that regulations follow money. Yet some oppose the consistent application of this Biblical principle of stewardship when it comes to public monies for private schools. We can’t have it both ways.
What proponents of the “protective wording” argument do not address is that subsequent legislation and court rulings can redefine or reverse the so-called protective language. And not all intended safeguards would survive a court challenge—issues such as church-state entanglement are inevitable.
Will bureaucrats and the public be content to channel enormous sums from their education budgets to unregulated schools? Don’t bet the farm on it. Rather, the effort to obtain private school subsidies will invite increased government regulations and controls over all private education, as has ultimately happened with every state-subsidized product, industry, or service, without exception.
Voucher proponents are already joining public school critics of vouchers in calling for private schools to be “accountable” through non-discrimination clauses, and through nationalized testing and curriculum. Standardization of tests and curriculum will go beyond science and geography skills into subjective areas based on humanistic values and politically correct thinking. Schools which become dependent on voucher funds will be tempted to compromise to perform well by these criteria or risk loss of funding. Those schools which out of conviction refuse vouchers risk being driven out of business by voucher-redeeming competition.
We must not be swayed by politics of expediency over principle—as in, “They’re going to have this anyway; let’s get the best program we can.” That same logic would insist our young people are going to be immoral anyway, so let’s provide them with “protection.” The end does not justify the means. We must purpose to do what is right and leave the results with the Lord.
We urge you to study all aspects of this debate. “The first to present his case seems right, until another comes forward and questions him” (Proverbs 18:17). Space here does not allow us to share much vital information. For a full-documented examination of court cases, legislation, historical evidence, and Biblical principles, obtain Choice in Education ($5.00) from National Advocacy for Private Education, P.O. Box 41562, Sacramento, CA 95841-0562. Instead of vague wishin’ and hopin’, this document answers the hard questions with hard facts.
Remember: There are no safe subsidies! Just say no.
Lynda Friesen is the Executive Director for the National Advocacy for Private Education. She has worked as a policy analyst and freelance writer, and been active in the political arena for many years. Lynda and her husband Glenn have three children. They have been involved in public, private, and for the last five years, home education.
The Case for Choice in Education
by Jane Chastain
I share the concerns that some of you have about choice in education. I believe it would be far better to get the government completely out of the education picture, and I agree that tuition tax credits are a much safer way to go. Unfortunately they don’t reach the poor and disadvantaged who need our help the most.
That’s our dilemma, because as Christians, we are our brother’s keeper. Each year 700,000 of our brother’s children graduate from public schools as functional illiterates. Another 700,000 drop out before graduation.
I can’t sit back comfortably with my child in a private or home school situation while a single mother, who is barely making ends meet, has no choice but to send her child to a school that will ridicule her faith and her values, teach her to chant and meditate, give her condoms and tell her, “It’s O.K. if you can’t read or write as long as you feel good about yourself.”
The teachers unions are trying to tell us that educational choice will mean the death of public schools. Others are saying it will mean the death of private and home schools.
Something is wrong with this picture. Tomorrow we will have more children to educate, not less. The question is not if they will be educated, but how.
Will parents be able to choose between a public, private or home school? Will there be a choice in the curriculum, or will the curriculum be dictated by the State?
Those of you who fear choice, because you fear more federal and state control of private schools, need to be reminded that there is nothing to prevent that right now. Laws already exist which allow government intrusion into requirements of private schools under certain vague conditions which are already being applied in some states.
For example, in the state of Iowa accredited private schools are already required to comply with mandates on Human Growth and Development, Global Education and Multicultural/Non-Sexist curriculum. If you aren’t willing to stand up and fight it can happen in your state right now, today.
I know some of you are saying, “I work hard. My family is willing to sacrifice to home school. It’s not easy, but we’re getting by. This doesn’t affect us.”
That’s today. What about tomorrow? Despite all the money we have poured into our public school system, it is broken. How much more money do you think it will take to fix it? Where will that money come from? It will come from you. And the next tax increase, or the next, may force both parents into the work force.
Despite the failure of the public school system, the powerful National Education Association is asking for an even larger piece of the pie. The teachers union has a majority of the legislators on the key committees in their hip pocket. The school they envision for tomorrow will be a center which will deliver all health care and a wide variety of social services.
“Oh, but I won’t use it.”
Oh, yes you will. If we follow our present course you will be taxed to the point where you will be forced to use it.
History has proven that protectionism does not work. It doesn’t work for nations, and it won’t work for you with the education of your children.
I am reminded of the famous speech of Martin Niemoller, a German theologian who was among the survivors of the Holocaust. If you will allow me to paraphrase.
They came with their curriculum and imposed it on our public schools. I didn’t speak up because my child wasn’t in a public school.
Next, they imposed their curriculum on the non-sectarian private schools, and I didn’t speak up because my child wasn’t in a non-sectarian private school.
Then, they imposed their curriculum on the private religious schools, and I didn’t speak up because my child wasn’t in a private religious school.
Finally, they came for the home schoolers, and by that time everyone else was already indoctrinated.
We can work to make choice in education a reality for everyone, or we can sit back in our own personal “comfort zone” and watch that comfort zone shrink.
Yes, there may be a few battles along the way. Fortunately, we don't have to fight these battles alone.
As a sportscaster I have learned that the best defense is a good offense. If educational choice becomes a reality the establishment is going to be far too busy with reform to worry about beating up on the competition.
I firmly believe that choice in education is the best hope parents have for maintaining control of their families in the future. But choice alone will not be enough. It’s a powerful tool, but we might as well face it. There is just no substitute for constant vigilance.
Jane Chastain is a commentator for the Crawford Broadcasting Company, a chain of Christian radio stations. She is the author of I’d Speak on the Issues If I Only Knew What to Say and her columns frequently appear in newspapers and magazines. Jane serves on the National Board of Directors of Concerned Women for America, and is on the advisory boards of Renaissance Women and Child Care International. Jane and her husband Roger have one son.