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J. Michael Smith, President Michael P. Farris, Chairman
November 7, 2002

Reasons Home Schoolers Should Avoid Government Vouchers

1. A national voucher system would actually increase government spending on education.

Voucher proponents claim that a voucher system would produce fierce competition between education providers, thus driving education costs down. However, a study conducted by Columbia University Professor Henry Levin1 reveals that the federal government would actually spend more money under a school voucher plan than under the current system.

In his study, Professor Levin, arguing that tuition should not be the only factor considered when comparing education costs, examined experimental school voucher programs in Milwaukee and Cleveland. He found that the public schools provided many free services, such as food and transportation, which the voucher schools provided for an extra fee.

Some of the additional hidden expenses that Levin said a voucher system would incur include:

$20 billion to $33 billion for students currently attending private schools who would also be eligible for vouchers;

$2.5 billion for maintaining school attendance records, and certifying and monitoring the voucher schools;

$42 billion for transportation, since a greater number of students would attend schools outside their neighborhoods. In Cleveland’s voucher experiment, Levin found that approximately 1,100 students take taxicabs to school, accounting for $9,900 of public funds every week;

$1.8 billion to inform families about the schools available to them; and

$1.8 billion for settling disputes involving students who want to change schools or schools that want to expel students.

There are over 5.5 million children who do not attend public schools in this country. If these children suddenly began using money from the state’s treasury for their schooling, taxes would have to be raised to generate the additional revenue. It is highly unlikely that public schools would reduce their budgets in order to provide funds for private schools. Edd Doerr, Executive Director of Americans for Religious Liberty, predicts that vouchers would cost Americans 33 billion dollars annually in increased taxes.2 Today, non-public school parents are being double taxed—they pay tuition for both public school children and their own children. With vouchers, these parents would be triple taxed. In addition to footing the bill for their own children’s tuition, they would pay for the public school students and the private school students who accepted vouchers.

2. Government money always comes with strings—and should.

Our government has the responsibility to spend our money frugally. For the government to “just give” vouchers to home schoolers would be irresponsible and pointless. If no strings are attached to vouchers, why waste the time and money sending tax dollars through a complicated bureaucracy only to be returned to the parents? Americans are appalled when they hear of how the government seems to give money away to agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts, which sponsors pornographic material without requiring accountability. Home schoolers would be double minded if they wanted “their” money to come with no strings, but approved strict regulations on the NEA’s grants. Voucher proponents have conceded that regulation would accompany vouchers, but claim it would not be “excessive.”3

3. Vouchers would cause private schools to become “public.”

Supporters argue that vouchers would cause public and private schools to compete against one another for students, therefore improving education. Why will schools compete for students? Because students bring government money with them. So private and public schools would compete for government money. What makes a private school “private” is that the “public” (at large) is not involved. Private schools have consumers; public schools have constituents.4 When private schools accept government money, they become obligated, not to their consumers, but to their constituents. This duty towards constituents is defined by our nation’s laws. Private schools, therefore, would be obliged to comply with government mandates concerning hiring quotas, curriculum standards, etc. In other words, private schools become “public.”

4. Top education officials have warned against vouchers.

A public school would become any school that receives students who brought with them public monies . . .5

- Lamar Alexander, former Secretary of Education under George Bush

There is no doubt in my mind that there will be some new regulations with voucher plans.6

- Chester Finn Jr., former Assistant Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan

U.S. Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, has strong reservations about vouchers. His reason for opposing vouchers is mainly to protect the current public school system, but he has some interesting warnings for private schools:

You have to be accountable with public tax dollars . . . when it comes to taking federal tax dollars and giving those to parents and then having the absence of accountability as far as their children’s education . . . If you have accountability, then you lose the private and parochial nature of those schools . . . It’s bad, we think, for private schools and parochial schools. It takes away from them the private and parochial strength, which is being totally free from any federal regulations. . .7

[Vouchers] threaten the very nature of private and parochial schools. It makes them less private and less parochial.8

Prepared by the legal staff of the National Center for Home Education. Permission to reprint granted.

1. Lazarovici, Laureen, “National Voucher System Could Be Costly, Study Says,” Education Daily, February 23, 1998, p.1.

2. Edd Doerr, “School voucher programs can’t stand close scrutiny,” Washington Times, October 11, 1995, A18.

3. See Allan Parker’s “Vouchers Without Strings” Texas Justice Foundation, and Frank Kemerer and Kimi Lynn King’s “Are School Vouchers Constitutional” Phi Delta Kappan, December 1995, p.310.

4. Keven B. Smith and Kenneth J. Meier, “School Choice, Panacea or Pandora’s Box?” Phi Delta Kappan, December 1995, p. 314.

5. Friesen, Lynda, “Vouchers: Free Ride or Hidden Trap?” Home School Court Report, July/August 1992, p.4.

6. Miller, John J., “Opting Out,” The New Republic, November 30, 1992, p.13.

7. Riley, Richard, U.S. Secretary of Education during a September 20, 1995 radio interview, The Diane Rehm Show, National Public Radio

8. Riley, Richard, U.S. Secretary of Education, “Third Annual State of American Education Address,” Maplewood-Richmond Heights Senior High School; St. Louis, Missouri; February 28, 1996.