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I’ll Still Vouch for Vouchers

If a local church in your community were to catch fire, should your local fire department let it burn to the ground? If a local priest, minister or rabbi were being robbed, should the cops just drive by and tell him he’s out of luck? Or should the government make it illegal for you to use your tax refund to donate to a religious organization?

You probably think I am sounding more insane than usual, but trust me, there is a method to my madness.

These questions stem from watching last week’s Indiana Supreme Court hearing on whether school vouchers violate the Indiana Constitution. I am more convinced than ever that vouchers are not only constitutional but that the state should expand its voucher program and make it truly universal.

Once again, a little full disclose before we get started: I do occasionally work with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. But I also have been a voucher supporter for a decade or so.

Just a quick recap, last week’s argument centered on Article 1, Section 6 of the Indiana Constitution which says, “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.”

Voucher opponents said the language is clear and no money can be spent which directly benefits any private religious schools. Voucher proponents said the beneficiary is the student and the parents, not the school. And the issue boiled down to how to determine who “benefits” from the vouchers?

I tend to side with the state that the “beneficiaries” of the vouchers are the students, the families and the state as a whole. Any “benefit” to the religious institution is incidental.

This is the equivalent of a city plowing the streets, and there just happens to be a church on the same block as my house. Should the city not plow my street because the church would get the “benefit” of a road that was cleared with tax dollars? Of course not.

The benefits to private religious schools under the voucher system are incidental at best. It would be one thing if these schools were making a profit under the voucher system, but I have yet to meet one private school administrator who was using money from vouchers to plan his or her next staff trip to the Cayman Islands.

Parents are choosing vouchers – in record numbers by the way – because they believe the traditional public schools in their communities are not doing the job. And instead of public schools continuing their perpetual whining about private and charter schools for that matter, they should do some serious self-examination.

I would argue that they should embrace vouchers and then work to improve their schools so parents are leaving the private and charter schools and coming back to them.

Stifling competition and engaging in protectionism is no way to educate children. It is a way to keep failing schools operating and lazy teachers and uninspiring bureaucrats employed at taxpayers’ expense.

Maybe there should be a constitutional amendment banning that.

  • G Square

    Hi Abdul, I agree with your point and want to bring up an additional topic. I’ve heard that IPS says that they’re stuck with special needs students and that is what brings down their performance rating. Care to do an article on that one?

  • http://www.facebook.com/leon.dixon.18 Leon Dixon

    What their performance rating does not measure is the job they do with an average IQ of but 85. The expectations of performance of such a school system need be tempered by the reality of what they are working with. In terms of academic performance IPS is stuck.

  • AWB

    >s not measure is the job they do with an average IQ of but 85

    I’m no fan of Dr. White and his merry band of administrators, but that’s below the belt!

  • hellonwheels

    Let’s extend the voucher program to other areas of state
    government.

    – I don’t need I-69 but the road outside my house is pitted and
    “reverting to gravel.” I would like a “road voucher” to
    apply to the roads I deem important.

    – I don’t smoke, have smoke alarms and a sprinkler system. I would like a
    “fire voucher” and would like to choose my own fire protection.

    – I patronize restaurants that I personally know to be clean and sanitary, I
    would like a “health department” voucher to spend that inspection
    money as I see fit.

    – I use the internet and electronic services and don’t patronize the library,
    I would like a “library voucher” to spend as I see fit.

    – I don’t expect the Indiana National Guard to bail me out in the case of
    disaster, I would like a “disaster voucher” to apply to future
    disasters.

  • kris

    abdul: religious schools may not see an immediate and explicit benefit, but the fact that taxpayers are funding these schools allowing them to presumably grow and further proselytize, perpetuating their religion–i dont’ know, but that seems like a taxpayer supported religious institution. it’s enough that churches don’t pay taxes.

    and your snow plow analogy is imperfect at best. plowing streets is good for EVERYONE, and is a public safety issue, so most people would agree it’s needed, and don’t mind taxes going to services like that.

    students do not NEED to go to religious schools when we already have public schools in place.

  • Ramon

    I don’t think that I have ever heard anyone in IPS say that we are “stuck with special needs students”. We have many more special needs students that most districts but these are our children. It is our legal and moral duty to educate them. What we want is a measuring stick that takes notice of this and does not compare us to a system who may have only 1/100 of the number of special needs students. In addition, many of our students needs are far more severe that other systems. A child who needs special therapy two times a week is different from a student who must have a full time assistant, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and special transportation to and from school. Special needs is a catch all term but the spectrum of special needs students is wide and deep.