Tuesday, September 18, 2012

School Vouchers ≠ Less Government, REPUBLICAN Warns the Radical Right

In an op-ed piece in today's Houston Chronicle Ronald L. Trowbridge warns radical right Texas officials that vouchers for private schools will lead to more government, not less.  And for good measure, he argues that the vouchers will cause private schools, including religious schools, to lose some of the freedom they now enjoy.

The radical right will, no doubt, dismiss his advice.  But what is remarkable is that Trowbridge is what was formerly known as a conservative Republican, having worked for President Ronald Reagan and served as Chief of Staff to Chief Justice Warren Burger.  So when Trowbridge urges these Tea Party darlings to reject school vouchers, you know they've really deluded themselves.  Maybe at least Trowbridge can keep them from deluding the rest of us.  Here's his op-ed column (along with the links in the Chronicle's web posting):

As one who worked for President Ronald Reagan, then later was chief of staff to Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger, I wish to explain why I believe that Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Education Commissioner Michael Williams and state Sen. Dan Patrick are misguided on public vouchers for private schools.

Giving government money to private schools would inevitably make them government schools, as political strings always come attached with government money.

It defies history and logic to assert that a permanent firewall can be built between government grant givers and private grant recipients. Moreover, such a wall would be a bad idea because state legislators have a fiduciary responsibility to require accountability for public funds given to the private sector.

It is in this area of accountability that political interventions can be mandated. Whether one favors it or not, the "10 percent rule," mandating college admission to all students who graduate in the top 10 percent of any Texas high school, is an example of political intervention. I can easily envision that the Texas Legislature will one day mandate that private schools receiving public vouchers must make demonstrable efforts toward diversity. Republicans focus on efficiency and productivity; Democrats on diversity and social justice.

Many argue that government grants and loans should be directed to parents or to students themselves and that therefore schools would not be recipients of government money.

Not so. In l984, the Supreme Court ruled in Grove City v. Bell that federal aid directed to students or parents, then passed on to a schools, made that school "a recipient of federal financial assistance" and therefore required to comply with certain government regulations.

In l988, Congress, under the Civil Rights Restoration Act, broadened the term "recipient" to include an entire school. This rule would apply to any "local educational agency, system of vocational education or other school system." Note that this would include elementary and secondary schools.

The same applies to state financial assistance, making a school subject to state regulations - which can indeed be political.

To be sure, private schools do not have to take public vouchers. But we know through research that most private schools would take the money. Under a present plan recommended in Texas, a government/taxpayer stipend of $5,143 per year would be given to each student attending a private school.

Private schools will become heavily reliant upon these large government stipends and will not be able to do without them, making them government schools.

Many object to government money going to the private sector, that is to the private schools. Many also object to government money going to religious schools; 80 percent of private schools are religious.

My larger objection is that throughout the history of this country, there has been a slow expansion of government power and control, as it reaches and grabs control in every nook and cranny. There is now less freedom, especially freedom for the talents and creativity of the individual, than ever before in the history of this country.

The supreme irony here is that government vouchers to private schools will expand that government power and control.

If private schools take government vouchers, they will have to trade their souls in the bargain.

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