Saturday, July 02, 2005


American public schools can be described in only one way: an unmitigated failure. The government has created an educational system free of the checks and balances that normally guide success and encourage innovation in the marketplace, namely, profit and loss in a setting of open competition. Instead, government schools shelter teachers through life-long tenure, virtually eliminating all accountability about what and how subjects are taught in the classroom. Furthermore, there are few incentives for cost-efficiency because this could result in budget reductions. Instead, whenever there seems to be a “learning problem,” the cry is for more of the taxpayers’ money.

The only real solution is to put education back into the marketplace. Unfortunately, some of the proposed “market solutions” are really still government solutions, since they come with political strings attached. One of the most popular of these is the school-voucher plan.

The Voucher Plan

The voucher has excited many pro-market advocates over the years. Under the plan, government would still collect taxes for education, but parents would be allowed to select the schools that their sons and daughters would attend. Theoretically, the government would be a silent third-party to the transaction, merely issuing the vouchers used as payment.

This would purportedly place all families in America on the same level playing field. School choice no longer would be a privilege of the rich; it would become a reality for all. Allowing parents to choose their children’s schools would make those schools accountable to them. If a school failed to meet particular parents’ standards, they would shift their children to another, taking the vouchers with them.

Unfortunately, proponents of the voucher fail to fully understand that the government involvement which has been so destructive of education would continue with their plan.

The Voucher Fallacy

For the voucher scheme to work as its advocates suggest, government would have to separate its check-writing powers from its regulatory powers. In other words, the government would have to allow parents to use the vouchers at any school of their choosing, without any comments, criticisms, or controls over that school’s curriculum or methods.

However, even a cursory examination of the reality of American politics exposes one inevitable truth: whatever the government pays for it ends up controlling. There are no exceptions!

Two cases prove instructive on this issue: Hillsdale College and the Virginia Military Academy (VMI).

Hillsdale College is a small liberal-arts institution in Michigan that has been admitting and graduating women, blacks, and other minority students on an equal basis with white men since before the Civil War. The college was never accused of or shown to have discriminated because of race or gender in its entire history. But in the 1970s the government decreed that because Hillsdale accepted students receiving federal aid it must comply with all federal regulations, including anti-discrimination laws. Hillsdale argued that since the government money went to students, and not directly to the college, it should not be subject to regulations. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that any college which accepts students who bring along federal dollars must follow the government’s rules. What was especially disturbing was the Court’s ruling that, even without evidence of discrimination, student aid could be terminated if the school failed to abide by federal guidelines concerning student admissions and anti-discrimination campus policies.

Twenty years later that precedent was used against VMI, an all-male military school that received money from the federal government in the form of student financial aid. A lawsuit against the school claimed sexual discrimination, and the court ruled that because VMI received federal tax dollars, it had to adhere to all federal regulations, including those prohibiting sex discrimination.

The Flawed Compromise

Although appearing to be a free-market solution, the voucher system could actually destroy any real alternative to the public schools. While vouchers might improve education slightly in the short term, over the longer run they would threaten to destroy any possibility of real school choice and undermine existing educational pluralism among private schools in America.

First, private schools accepting vouchers would become hooked on government money and increasingly doubtful over whether they could exist without it. Then, like the VMI and Hillsdale cases, government regulations would begin to envelop these schools. Maybe not the first day, or the first year, but eventually pressure groups with “politically correct” axes to grind would pressure the government and courts to extend controls to these new institutions caught in the web of government dependency.

Many private schools that wished to maintain their autonomy might be unable to survive the subsidized competition from the public schools and private schools that accepted vouchers. Those that did survive would most likely have to raise their tuition and once more become schools more or less exclusively for “the rich.”

Private schools accepting vouchers and the accompanying regulations would become de facto “public” schools, reduced to the standards and quality of the existing government system. All would be forced to conform to the government’s model, with no real competition and choice. This would take from parents any incentive to shop around for the best schools for their children. Some of the weaker schools might close, but the vast majority would exist under the government’s regulatory standard.

Finally, a new layer of bureaucracy would arise, with new offices to oversee the program and to assure that schools followed the rules. Once again, tax money would finance a bloated government infrastructure—money that parents could have been spending on their children’s education.

How different, then, would that system look from today’s current public-school system, in which parents are stuck sending their children to deficient public schools unless they can afford to pay more money out of their after-tax income for better private schools?

Although the voucher proposal may look like a market-based alternative to public education, when analyzed with foresight and an understanding of how politics actually works, it is revealed to be a mirage and not a free-market oasis.

Like it or not, it should never be forgotten that every government dollar comes with strings attached. Schools dependent on government money can never become the basis of an actual market-based educational system. To develop such a competitive system, we must allow and require schools to operate according to the rules of the market, where consumers—in this case parents—spend their own money.



The NSW corruption watchdog has found two former senior University of Newcastle staff members acted corruptly, after an investigation into the handling of plagiarism allegations at the university. The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) also recommended the university consider disciplinary action against Deputy Vice-Chancellor Brian English, for failing to address the deficiencies of an internal review into the matter clearing relevant staff of misconduct.

The ICAC investigated an allegation of corrupt conduct made in January 2003 by lecturer Ian Firns, regarding how his report of plagiarism involving 15 postgraduate business students was handled. Mr Firns had failed the students from Institut WIRA in Malaysia, a partner organisation through which the university offered a Master of Business Administration, for what he alleged was work copied from websites. But on re-marking, the students' grades were overturned and they were awarded marks of up to 80 per cent, the ICAC was told.

The ICAC today found Dr Paul Ryder, former Head of the Graduate School of Business, and his former deputy, Dr Robert Rugimbana, engaged in corrupt conduct. They breached their duty by having assignments re-marked contrary to university policy and without any proper investigation as to the truth of the plagiarism allegations, the ICAC found. Dr Ryder and Dr Rugimbana were "motivated by a desire to avoid any potential adverse consequences that the allegations may have had for the offshore program", the ICAC reported. As as a result, it said, academic standards were undermined.


Waltons direct donations to Alliance: "One of the world's richest families picked Phoenix attorney Clint Bolick's non-profit group as recipient of memorial donations for Wal-Mart heir John T. Walton. Bolick is a conservative activist with a national reputation as a fighter for education reform and the rights of small-business owners. Walton died Monday after the experimental aircraft he was piloting crashed in Wyoming. Walton sat on the board of directors and was a $1 million contributor to the Alliance for School Choice, founded in 2004 by his friend Bolick. 'This is not the way we'd like to have people come to make contributions to us,' Bolick, 47, said Tuesday. 'It's a touching and typical gesture on John's part.' ... [He] said he didn't know who John Walton was when he sat next to him at a school-choice conference in Arkansas 10 years ago and struck up a conversation."


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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