While at Longwood University recently, I talked with faculty and students about issues that will likely be highlighted in Virginia's gubernatorial election. One is school choice.
This week, Florida voted on Amendment 8…a constitutional repeal of a ban on "direct or indirect" public funding for schools with "church, sect, or religious denomination".
The Amendment failed.
Private schools have been given the right to operate since the 1925 Supreme Court decision called Pierce vs. The Society of Sisters. Oregon had attempted to amend its compulsory attendance law to put parochial schools out of business.
The US Supreme Court used the 14th Amendment (equal protection) to determine that the parochial schools had a clear right to operate.
The issue today is not about the operation of private schools or even their regulation…in Virginia they are permitted to regulate themselves. The issue is "who will pay?"
As noted often, I believe in choices and competition, but I have always been concerned about vouchers and tax credits from an economic perspective. Families have the right to choose the schools that their children will attend. The compelling issue is whether or not the public should pay for each of those choices.
If I never use a recreation facility, should the government pay for my private gym? If I never use a public library, should the government pay for my magazine subscription?. If I choose not to use a public school, should the public pay for another option?
We should always support those families who want to provide a religious education for their children…but paying for it is another issue. Maybe if I choose not to use public transportation, I could get a tax break or subsidy for my car payments.