Thursday, June 08, 2006

Vouchers as Welfare

Our liberal brethern over at Buckeye State Blog bring our attention to a story in the Columbus Dispatch about abuse of the voucher system. The interesting thing is that the BSBers would have us believe that this is a wide-spread epidemic and that clearly indicates that vouchers are BAD BAD BAD. At least, that's what I get out of the post you can read here.

Anyway...at the conclusion of the post, modernesquire says this:
If this was any other government welfare program, conservatives wouldn't be able to control themselves in the face of such fraud (like enrolling a child and then calling them in sick while they still attend their private schools). Their silence would be sad, but their tacit approval is disgusting.
Now, I for one am outraged by people who are gaming the system. If there is a violation of the law, these people should be prosecuted to fullest extent possible. If there isn't a violation ofthe law, the law should be amended to clarify the situation. Sufficient outrage? I think so...

But what I found stimulating was the idea that vouchers are a kind of welfare program. Which, it is. The reason why conservatives, such as myself, support it is that the vouchers system is less of a welfare system than the public school system. The idea is to introduce free market concepts to the field of education and eventually competition will eliminate the need for the vouchers. At least, that is the way I view it; you mileage may vary.

Really, our schools are failing us. We need to fix the problem. Clearly, the public school system as it has been run is in trouble. The problem isn't money. We could spend a tremendous amount of time discussing the problems that our schools face today and never get them all out on the table. If vouchers can help, I don't really see what is so BAD about that.

Lastly, when liberals point out that conservatives don't like welfare, the subtext is that conservatives are just meanies who don't like the poor. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Conservatives, just like liberals, want to bring those in the populace who don't wish to be poor out of that condition. Where liberals and conservatives differ is on how the best way to accomplish that. Liberals like handouts and programs; conservatives prefer incentivizing behavior that will lead to success.

6/9 UPDATE: modernesquire responds in the comments. Apparently, I have misunderstood his position and that he doesn't think vouchers are BAD, or at least, he didn't state so. At any rate, it seems there has been a misunderstanding. I want to extend my thanks to modernesquire for stopping by and participating in the debate.

1 comment:

Modern Esquire said...

I never said that vouchers were bad. Never implied it either.

What I criticized was an argument advanced by Stephen Kelso, of your alliance, who argued that the practice is evidence of parents' desparation for school choice.

Given that most of the vouchers are going unclaimed, that statement is contrary to the claim that this is being done for that reason. While I disagree that the market could remove the need for vouchers or public education, that's a debate separate from this one. I think vouchers should be given to those the legislature intended them to be given, children attending failing public school systems who need financial assistance in order for them to be able to have a true choice between public and private-sector provided education.

I'm glad that you agree with me that if this practice is not illegal, it should be. However, at the time I wrote my story, it was in reaction to Steven Kelso's post on this website where he later admits in the comments he himself has engaged in this very practice he posted to defend.

I personally think that vouchers should not be used as a means to keep kids already in private school in private school at lower costs, especially when that was not the intent of the General Assembly when they created vouchers.

Eventually, if vouchers do become more popular and this practice is permitted to continue, Mr. Kelso and others will frustrate the intent of the legislature by preventing parents from having a true choice.

Just because the situation has not reached that point and the practice is not expressly illegal does not justify this practice.

On that much you and I agree. I welcome competition in education, but I would not welcome government abandoning it's role as a competitor and leaving education to the free market alone. True "school choice" requires universal education where government is as much as competitor to private education that it can be.