last weekend received an overwhelmingly favorable response,
including a request for republication. A couple of responses, however,
including an attack on my honesty by a "pro-voucher libertarian"
circulating around the Internet, indicate to me that more needs
to be said on the subject of libertarianism, vouchers, and where
the money is coming from. Moreover, a few items that have crossed
my desk since last week (one of them generously sent to me by a
reader) indicate that my article only scratched the surface.
things first. I did not do enough to differentiate between the notions
of state-funded vouchers and federally funded vouchers. The Zelman
decision involved an instance of the former, not the latter. Nor
did I say enough to indicate that the specifics of future voucher
programs would have to be hammered out on a state-by-state basis.
I assumed everybody knows this although a handful of careless
references to the federal government may have suggested otherwise.
with that said, does anyone really believe that federal and state
education departments operate in sealed-off, antiseptically closed
universes, so that the federal government will have absolutely nothing
to say about the dispensation of vouchers somewhere down the pike?
Anyone who believes this, including "pro-voucher libertarians,"
I have for sale some oceanfront property in central Nebraska they
might find very pleasant. State education departments receive federal
money for a multitude of purposes, and with this federal money comes
entangling regulations. Be this as it may, the quote from my article
that set off my "pro-voucher libertarian" critic seems to have been
the one from Charles Murray's book What
It Means to Be a Libertarian. This is, in fact, a very strange
little book, given its title. Murray (unlike "real" libertarians
I am familiar with) sees education as a "federal function … a $3,000
unrestricted tuition voucher would be provided annually for each
child attending elementary and secondary school an expenditure
of about $150 billion a year" (p . 37). And again: "Replace all
existing federal programs with an unrestricted $3,000 school voucher
per annum, per child" (p. 90). Now was Murray proposing a federal
program or was he not? He isn't always clear. He is "prepared to
accept government funding, though not government control, of education"
(p. 96). Whether you can have the first without the second is a
major issue regardless of whether we are talking about state
or federal. Moreover, the federal programs in existence are not
necessarily limited to government schools.
the U.S. Department of Education itself recently
affirmed the federal government's
of giving private and religious groups taxpayer support when they
serve the secular public interest…. Federal education laws already
recognize that public funds can be used for private or religious
institutions that serve the public interest in K through 12 education.
Title I funding for disadvantaged students [under the 1999 Reauthorization
of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act] has a provision
allowing Title I funds to be used for services and equipment at
non-public institutions when it is needed.
is different about the voucher program decided in Zelman, however,
is that the voucher goes directly to the parents and not to any
school. However, in light of the recent avalanche of federal education
legislation, especially Bush's No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,
does this difference actually make a difference? House Education
and Workforce Committee Chair John Boehner (R-OH) praised
the Zelman ruling:
by the Supreme Court builds on the new options that parents have
under the No Child Left Behind Act, which was signed into law
in January by President Bush. The new law allows federal Title
I education dollars to go to private, faith-based educational
organizations to provide tutoring, after-school learning and other
supplemental educational services to low-income students in underachieving
public schools. This provision confirms the portability of Title
I funds and lays the groundwork for further expansion of parental
choice in education.
well as the further expansion of federal involvement in education.
President Bush has long been a voucher enthusiast, first on the
campaign trail back in 2000 (he mainly used the less controversial
phrase school choice) and more recently. He also favors a massive
federal role in education. The original version of the No Child
Left Behind Act, very possibly the largest federal education bill
in U.S. history, contained a voucher provision that would have given
students up to $1,500 in federal funds for private-school tuition.
Congress got rid of this and replaced it (in the Senate) with a
provision that would allow the same students to receive the same
$1,500 for private tutoring or transportation to other public schools.
has revived the idea for his 2003 budget:
to encourage innovation and choice in education, President Bush's
budget for FY 2003 calls for $50 million to be allocated toward
private school choice demonstration programs. Through the further
study made possible by these funds, we will be able to learn how
to best design choice programs,...
to give families up to $2,500 per child if they choose a private
school rather than a failing neighborhood public school.
federal involvement in school choice? Tell me another one!
Lynch, writing in Reason, warned
back in January of 2001, following the passage of No Child Left
Behind: "Prepare yourself for a larger role for the federal government
in education. And prepare yourself for federally funded vouchers
for low-income students in failing schools." (Italics mine.)
Former Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne has
bluntly: "Vouchers will result in government control of private
schools…. [A]nytime government money goes anywhere, there are strings
attached. Vouchers would be used as a means of exerting federal
control over private and parochial schools."
let us just suppose that by a miracle of Biblical proportions, programs
dispensing state-funded vouchers exclusively to parents in the future
managed to remain free of federal oversight. Would this mean that
private, religious schools would be able to maintain their distinct
identities? The longest standing state-funded voucher program, in
Milwaukee, has been in existence around 12 years. This program is
the logical place to look for evidence of danger, and it is there.
Law Association recently issued
this statement identifying the problem:
words – loss of autonomy. The Wisconsin statute contains an "opt
out" provision. No private Christian school that accepts vouchers
may require a pupil to participate in any religious activity if
the pupil's parent or guardian submits a written notice that he
or she should be exempted. Furthermore, pupil selection must occur
on a random basis. Church schools that accept voucher students
may not limit enrollment to church families or even to religious
families. Finally, the state has established uniform financial
accounting standards and each participating private school, including
the religious schools, must be audited annually.
other words, if schools take money whose ultimate source is government
even at the state level they must play by the state's
rules. This was what Joe Loconte, William E. Simon Fellow in Religion
and a Free Society, at the Heritage Foundation, warned back as 1999
Review, that Wisconsin "is not so much a model as it is
an omen a case study in how choice programs could become
a Trojan horse for government meddling in private education." He
observes that before the constitutionality of the voucher program
in Milwaukee was upheld by the lower court, "opponents tried to
saddle religious schools with a hodge-podge of federal and state
Coulson, author of the monumental study Market
Education: The Unknown History, wrote:
the historical record is unambiguous when it comes to elementary
and secondary (as opposed to college) education. In every case
in the history of k-12 education of which I am aware, state subsidies
of private schools have been followed by pervasive state regulation
of those schools. This has been true from ancient Rome, to the
medieval Muslim Empire, to England, Canada, and the United States
in the 19th century.
quotes Greg Doyle of the ACLU: "Any [private] school that takes
public funds ought to be required to do the things that public schools
do." This is, in fact, the dominant mindset. Voucher advocate Charles
Glenn of Boston University's educational policy department warned,
"If we're not careful about … how voucher programs are designed,
government will get its hands on these schools and in four or five
years turn them into clones." Of course. Back in 1942, the Supreme
Court ruled in Wickard v. Filburn that "It is hardly lack
of due process for the government to regulate that which it subsidizes."
this is why Justice David Souter, in his dissenting opinion in Zelman,
is one of corrosive secularism to religious schools … and the
specific threat is to the primacy of the schools' mission to educate
the children of the faithful according to the unaltered precepts
of their faith. Even [t]he favored religion may be compromised
as political figures reshape the religion's beliefs for their
own purposes; it may be reformed as government largesse brings
government regulation…. The risk is already being realized. In
Ohio, for example, a condition of receiving government money under
the program is that participating religious schools may not discriminate
on the basis of religion … Nor is the State's religious antidiscrimination
restriction limited to student admission policies; by its terms,
a participating religious school may well be forbidden to choose
a member of its own clergy to serve as teacher or principal over
a layperson of a different religion claiming equal qualification
for the job…. Indeed, a separate condition that [t]he school not
teach hatred of any person or group on the basis of religion …
could be understood (or subsequently broadened) to prohibit religions
from teaching traditionally legitimate articles of faith as to
the error, sinfulness, or ignorance of others, if they want government
money for their schools.
this light, let us consider Lew Rockwell's "Voucher
Socialism, which reports on the one program we haven't considered
so far, down in Florida. Private schools there must, he writes,
must (1) file huge and ongoing financial reports to the state (there
is no privacy); (2) submit to all federal antidiscrimination laws
(thus forcing single-sex schools participating in the program to
change their admission policies, for example); (3) accept voucher
students on a religious-neutral basis without regard to the student's
past academic history; (4) only employ teachers with at least three
years teaching experience in public or private schools; (5) accept
as full tuition and fees the amount provided by the state for each
student-price controls; (6) agree not to compel any student attending
the private school on a voucher to profess a specific belief, pray
or worship no independent curriculum; (7) grant the government
veto power over disciplinary procedures, so that no voucher student
can be expelled for being a troublemaker.
does sound like socialism to me. Rockwell concludes: "So long as
public money is involved, the government will always run the show."
Very much contrary to Charles Murray and other pro-voucher utopians.
my pro-voucher critic (and, therefore, perhaps others) may be ready
to shout, But Yates, the voucher program in Ohio does not give
money to any private school; it gives money to the parents and lets
them use it to choose which school to send their children to.
True as I've noted. My response is twofold: (1) What matters
is not who the money flows to, but where it is flowing from, and
(2) It matters little whether it is flowing from state educrats
or from federal educrats because of the web of entanglements between
the two. We may also turn to voucher critic Douglas Dewey of the
National Scholarship Center whose description
of the long term effects of the G.I. Bill, Pell Grants, and guaranteed
student loans on higher education might be instructive. After
all, these, too, were granted to individuals, not institutions.
(This should be helpful for several readers who emailed me wondering
if the G.I. Bill created problems for the idea that vouchers would
lead to government control over private schools.)
G.I. Bill was introduced in the mid-1940s. One of its long-term
effects has been to increase
the cost of higher education. The average annual tuition at
a private college was $2,570 (in 1995 dollars). In 1995 it was $14,510.
The average annual tuition at a public university was $820. In 1995
it was $2,982. In other words, subsidies increase cost. Colleges
and universities, being aware of the easy-money factor, have had
no qualms about regular tuition hikes. After all, huge fractions
of student bodies on every public and on most private campuses are
receiving government assistance of one form or another. Operating
expenses likewise have skyrocketed, as layers and layers of administration
have built up with most administrators paid far better than
most faculty members.
while there is no doubt that the G.I. Bill helped a lot of veterans
attend college who would not otherwise have been able to, its other
effect (along with the other forms of outside assistance) was the
relatively sudden appearance on campuses of people who were not
really college material. Academic standards began to drop in order
to retain them; remedial education and underwater-basketweaving
courses began to multiply. This was rationalized and called "democratization."
Government at all levels, business and the media all agreed on a
new myth: everybody ought to go to college. This came coupled
with: everybody is owed a college education at public expense.
The influx of students called for the hiring of new faculty. Many
of those hired were not professor material. They sleepwalked through
teaching careers without contributing to their disciplines beyond
a dissertation or revising tests or lecture notes. (I was there,
and I saw them.) This steady descent into the mediocrity of "democratization"
left the universities wide open to the affirmative-action mindset,
and, eventually, to political correctness and thought control. By
the 1990s we had reached a point where departments had to answer
to bureaucrats on multiple details of hiring decisions, listing
women and minority applicants, for example, and explaining why they
were not hired (again: I was there; I saw it). The risk of "noncompliance"
is a federal lawsuit.
I observed last week, private colleges like Grove City College and
Hillsdale College had to fight major court battles to remain free
of federal entanglements, the upshot of which has been that no student
of either can accept a single federal dollar. If this is not an
edifice of federal control over almost all of higher education,
then what is?!
Dewey concludes: "The history of state and federal subsidy of postsecondary
education has been one of declining quality at an escalating cost.
Do we want private elementary and secondary education to follow
the same path?"
the increasing expense of higher education since the various federal
voucher-style programs began in the 1940s has a parallel with the
state-funded voucher programs. Expenses have actually increased,
not decreased. According to the Center
for Education Reform, since 1990 spending in the Milwaukee Public
Schools has grown from $604.5 million to $968 million. Average per-pupil
spending is up from $6,064 to $9,417; adjusted for enrollment growth,
this is an increase of 43 percent. State aid to Milwaukee Public
Schools has grown 55 percent during the years the voucher program
has been in effect. A similar situation is developing in the newer
program in Ohio.
Cleveland's program began in 1996, general operating expenditures
for public schools have gone up from $559.6 million to $662.6 million,
with average per-pupil spending up from $7,970 to $8,814. This is
not as big of an increase; but then again, that program is six years
old and not 12 years old. Give it time. Finally, the prevalence
of vouchers makes it easy for private secondary and elementary schools
to raise tuition, just as colleges and universities have done. Why
wouldn't they? Vouchers provide easy money. This could easily price
private education out of the reach of parents who don't use the
voucher. The point: government subsidies at any level allow costs
to rise, and vouchers are one form of government subsidy. Follow
long and the short of it: vouchers are a snare and a delusion. They
will bring a sense of short term freedom to choose followed by long
term misery. There are some larger issues we should consider. The
item sent to me by a reader I mentioned at the outset was a
recent article by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, a former Senior
Policy Advisor at the US Department of Education who spent years
gathering evidence of behavior modification programs and other components
of planning for a completely centralized society being put into
place in government schools. She went on to produce the meticulously
Deliberate Dumbing Down of America: A Chronological Paper Trail.
In this article she observes how the dumbing down that has been
the basic warp and woof of government schools will now be extended
to private schools, once the latter begin accepting "vouchered"
students in large numbers. This will include the destruction of
their liberal arts curriculums in favor of school-to-work style
vocational training, and the stripping away of both religious identity
and sound moral education in favor of the prevailing multiculturalist
relativism. It is true that nothing in the Zelman decision or in
any law forces a private school to accept "vouchered" students.
However, because of the ease of using a state-funded voucher, not
just parents who refuse to use the voucher will find private education
priced out of their reach, but those schools that refuse to accept
"vouchered" students will find themselves unable to compete and
with a choice between changing their policy or closing their doors.
Douglas Dewey again:
school deeply committed to its mission may bite the bullet or
refuse to accept the voucher; but a less committed Christian school
down the street decides it can live with the regulations and oversight
and accepts the voucher. Some parents from the first school deicde
they can get roughly the same result from the voucher-redeeming
school down the street and beat a fast path to free Christian
schooling. The first school may now be faced with the prospects
of dropping its music program, not renovating a gym in bad repair,
or even closing its doors. The mere existence of the voucher pits
mission-compromising schools against uncompromising schools, with
the upper hand given to the compromisers.
other words, in an environment in which the honest try to operate
within the assumptions of free enterprise but have to compete with
opportunists, the opportunists will win every time. The bad drives
out the good.
according to Iserbyt, "school choice" offering vouchers is indeed
a Trojan Horse, leading us toward "the socialist, corporate fascist,
workforce training agenda for the global planned economy." This
brings us to the New World Order. I have noticed that many libertarians
want nothing to do with "conspiracy theories" of history, although
I have documented both the existence and more specific goals of
the superelites here
as well as connected it to specific United Nations confabs and agendas
Plenty of others have written on the subject, usually with documentation
so extensive as to convict skeptics of willful blindness. Anyone
wishing to learn the truth about "reinventing government" may read
(which has almost 400 endnotes). Finally, anyone wanting to study
the real background of such movements as sustainable development
and smart growth may go here
(which, those who click on the link will see immediately, is on
the UN's own website, not in any production of mine). The case for
the reality of a longstanding, multigenerational scheme to build
a highly centralized, global superstate (New World Order
is just a convenient term for it) is better than the case for, say,
course, it follows from this that the federal government is not
the only archenemy of individual freedom operating in this society.
The federal government, in fact, doesn't have any money except for
what is extracted by threat of force from taxpayers or simply given
to it by special interests (especially financial ones) who want
certain things done. One has to finger huge, tax-exempt foundations
created through the financial empires of the Rockefellers, the Fords
and the Carnegies. These empires have underwritten leftist and statist
projects of all varieties to the tune of millions since their origin
in the 1910s as means of income tax avoidance following the creation
of the IRS. They represent what is sometimes called the "Eastern
Establishment" and sometimes the "Anglo-American Establishment"
(the name of an
important book by Carroll Quigley, long time professor of international
law and political history at Georgetown University who documented
the operations of the various behind-the-scenes groups in great
detail). There is not space here to recount the history of the efforts
of "the Establishment" to gain control of all education in this
society, public and private. That has been done elsewhere, in works
such as Iserbyt's as well as in John Taylor Gatto's The
Underground History of American Education and Beverly Eakman's
Cloning of the American Mind. There are also a few short
summations. The upshot is that we simply cannot consider the
voucher problem in the absence of the larger history both of government
education itself, and of the perceived threat that private, religious
schools (and home schooling) represent to the efforts underway to
create an army of unthinking drones to service the global economy
under a world government. After all, if one can control the education
of the next generation, then one can control society by having
created a population who, like the "somatized" zombies in Aldous
New World, actually love their rulers! (And speaking of
drugs, think of our educational system’s growing use of legal mind-altering
substances such as Ritalin and Prozac!)
anybody honestly review the full scope of the available material,
much of it on the perpetrators' own web sites, and still believe
that "the empire isn't going to strike back" and work to ensure
that real, meaningful, long term parental choice soon becomes a
choice between tweedle-dumb and tweedle-dumber?
me get to the crux of the matter. A consistent libertarian cannot
support the idea of parents accepting money from any government,
federal or state or local, to send their children to a private school.
Counterconsiderations may seem to indicate otherwise. It is true,
for example, that by virtue of taxes all of us are paying for government
schools (along with the rest of what the government does). Can't
a voucher therefore be viewed as a kind of payback? Yes and no.
A voucher provides a parent with an immediate choice so long
as no one looks at the Big Picture (a temptation government schools
have been trying to "educate" out of us for the past 50 years).
Others have suggested income tax credits instead of vouchers
so that ostensibly no government ever sees the money. Unfortunately,
as with any government-designated dollar amount, the government
does see the money, however indirectly. Bureaucrats will still demand
"accountability," i.e., verification that what would have been tax
dollars are spent in a certain way (probably through a tuition receipt
thus also creating a paper trail to the institution that
issued the receipt).
only real solution is for parents to follow the leads being taken
by Marshall Fritz, Rev.
E. Ray Moore and others, and get their children out of government
schools and to do so without succumbing to the temptations
of this matters, because with the Zelman decision now made, a number
of states are ready to move with voucher programs of their own:
California, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Arizona, Indiana, Virginia
and Utah. In Washington, D.C. itself, House Majority Leader Dick
Armey (R-TX) has introduced a bill that would award scholarship
money to "needy families" in Washington. His bill would award them
$5,000 per family. It sets aside money for 8,300 scholarships to
be awarded during the next five years. It won
the praise of Secretary of Education Paine who said, "It's my
hope that a successful plan in Washington, D.C. will send a strong
message to the rest of the country that school choice must be on
the menu of options for improving our schools and leaving no child
behind." There is that phrase again. Surely others besides myself
have noticed that the difference between Republicans and Democrats
regarding government involvement in education is illusory rather
than real, and that Bush is pursuing a course almost indistinguishable
from that pursued by Clinton.
Quigley wrote in Tragedy
and Hope that "the argument that the two parties should
represent opposed ideals and politics…of the Right and…Left, is
a foolish idea…the two parties should be almost identical, so that
the American people can 'throw the rascals out' without leading
to any profound or extensive shifts in policy…It should be possible,
to replace one party with the other party which will pursue, with
new vigor, approximately the same basic policy." This obviously
is intended to include federal education policy. (All italics mine.)
sum up: come on, folks, this is not rocket science. Government
money is government money, and government money means government
control. Libertarians who support tax-funded vouchers are living
in a dream world. Moreover, we simply cannot look at this voucher
situation in isolation from some of the huge (and well-funded!)
movements of the past couple of decades: America 2000, Outcome-Based-Education,
Goals 2000, School-To-Work, and now Bush's No Child Left Behind.
Is anyone really so naive as to think that the federal government
and other power-hungry elites will magically reverse a course established
over several decades and suddenly allow parents "educational choice,"
no strings attached, with the key being the voucher?
voucher movement began with the best of intentions and the best
of hopes, under the auspices of free market thought. Milton Friedman
made the reasonable argument that the core problem with "public
schools" is that they are a government-run monopoly. He proposed
the tax-funded voucher as the solution. Government schools would
then have to compete with private schools, and this would compel
them to improve. However, statists have infiltrated the voucher
movement. As I noted last weekend, more and more statists see vouchers
as means of furthering welfarist egalitarianism, increasing educational
spending and subjecting private schools to government control. Diane
last fall: "It is the equity version of the voucher movement,
not the free-market model of Milton Friedman, that has taken root
in the past decade."
about it! I do not want to have write an article five to ten years
from now, in the wake of a wrecked, diluted, dumbed-down system
of private schools and a derailed home school movement, reminding
you that you were warned!
Yates [send him mail]
has a PhD in philosophy and is a Margaret "Peg" Rowley Fellow
at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
He is the author of Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (ICS Press,
1994), and numerous articles and reviews. At any given time
he is at work on any number of articles and book projects, including
a science fiction novel.
© 2002 LewRockwell.com