The Old-School Liberal

“Freedom granted only when it is known beforehand that its effects will be beneficial is not freedom” — Friedrich Hayek

Of Vouchers and Liberty

Posted by Devin J. Ekins on October 25, 2007

The School voucher issue raging in the reddest of states, Utah, has polarized many organizations and individuals into two camps, Pro-Voucher and Anti-Voucher, both giving praise and promising help to the Public Education System. Whether vouchers will actually aid the Public Education System is a function of both dollars allotted and freedoms allowed.

The voucher proposal is one where every student currently enrolled in the government schools has the opportunity to accept a partial refund for their involuntary purchase in the government schools if they enroll in a private school. This refund is dependent on your financial situation and ranges between $500 and $3,000. Note that the average cost for a student in the government schools is $7,000.

Voucher opponents claim this move would take money away from the government system that desperately needs it. Would it? That depends. The average cost is $7,000. Up to $3,000 is taken away from the schools along with one student that costs, on average, $7,000. In a basic scenario, the public school stands to gain between $4,000 and $6,500 per student that accepts the offer. This leaves smaller class sizes and more money for the school per student.

Opponents say this is “Fairy tale math.” They argue two points. First, children with extra needs will disproportionately remain in the system, making the remaining average cost of students rise. If the low cost students aren’t subsidizing the high cost students, the system will suffer, they proclaim. Second, fixed costs (Debt payments, utilities, administration) will remain the same. Again, low cost students need to subsidize the fixed costs. For the public school to lose money from the vouchers, the average cost of students that choose to leave the government schools would have to be massively less than those remaining.

In truth, however, a main point in question is whether people should be focused on the “selfish” goal of their child’s education as opposed to all children’s education. If caring about your children above someone else’s children is a selfish thing, it is doubtful there are many parents undeserving of the title “selfish.” The current system is aimed at preventing “selfish” behavior; one argument spoken at a debate in Salt Lake City at the Marriot hotel by an anti-voucher spokesman claimed that he is a proponent of parental choice . . . as long as they chose a government school.

Furthermore, what on earth are parents doing sending kids to get the kind of education that they want? Many think that they have the right to choose the type of education that other parents’ children receive. Schools that don’t focus on the same things the government tell us are the most important are dangerous and harm children, they say. Diversity is dangerous! Ideas are dangerous! Make them think the same as everyone else. If they aren’t approved of by the government, and don’t follow the rules made by those that know best, they should be stopped. The message here is that the majority knows better than any individual parent.

When words like choice, freedom, liberty, justice are as likely to be used with the opposite denotation as they are with their original meaning, they become lifeless, useless words. They become mere gimmicks in a demagogue’s bag of tricks. You can choose what you want, as long as “we” approve it. You can be free, as long as you submit to “our” beliefs. You can have justice, but we’ll pardon who we choose. You can speak your mind, as long as we don’t disagree.

Well, Utah, will you choose freedom, or will you ensure “equality?”

“We do not object to equality as such. It merely happens to be the case that a demand for equality is the professed motive of most of those who desire to impose upon society a preconceived pattern of distribution.” — Friedrich A. Hayek


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