Education Editorial: School Choice and "Who Pays?"

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - In 1922 the state of Oregon passed an initiative that would change its compulsory school attendance laws to wipe out parochial schools.

Following World War I many states were concerned about "foreign values" and were passing laws that would establish public schools as the vehicle to transmit the American culture and way of life. Potentially taking effect in 1926, the Supreme Court of the United States in 1925 in Pierce v Society of Sisters unanimously decided states could not take away school choices from families. They could not create a monopoly.

The 21st century debates about school choice center not on the question "May I?" but rather on the question "Who will pay"? In Virginia there are clear choices. Some advocates, however, have treated school choice and tuition tax credits/vouchers as synonymous ideas. They are not. "I pay taxes" is not a simple justification. But, places like Indiana are giving it another try even though such plans rarely provide new options for low-income families.

The public invests in public schools because they are considered to be in the common interest of all citizens…including those who have no children.  If I choose never to use a public library, will the public pay for my Readers Digest subscription. If I don't use the parks and recreation facility, will you pay my Family Fitness or local YMCA fees? If I never use public transportation, will you pay my car payments?

Why then should the public pay for private educational "choices"? Families are still the most important educational institutions… but the public should not have to pay for each of their decisions.

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