Tuesday, May 22, 2012

School Choice Swindlers

Today's New York Times' exposé (Public Money Finds Backdoor to Private Schools) on the effects of many state legislatures' (including Georgia's) decision to allow citizens the option of diverting state tax payments away from state coffers and into private, K-12 schools contains enough information and anecdotes to get people with various perspectives excited.  The report heavily emphasizes the actions of those who, in the words of one private school headmaster, "violate the spirit of the law," which has been passed in various forms in various states purportedly to provide school choice to those trapped in failing public schools.

But it may be more accurate to argue that those who have used the law to effectively reduce tuition for private school students, and more specifically for those students who would not otherwise attend a public school, are very much acting in the "actual," rather than the "promoted," spirit of the law.  The article is filled with examples of school administrators, legislators, middlemen, and parents apparently "gaming the system."  The law of unintended consequences is certainly in play, as should be expected when a large amount of money (as much as $50 million) is unleashed by the government for the supposed purpose of "helping others."

The author does give some attention to the schools and organizations who have resisted the temptation to use the (intentionally inserted) wording of the law to use the funds in a way that conflicts with the law's advertised purpose.  To the extent that they exist, these well meaning actors are obviously at risk of being associated with the system's swindlers.  Maybe those who honestly believe, as the law's propaganda states, that it is a good thing for a tax payer to be able to divert some of his state tax bill away from the state spending apparatus, and toward causes that he deems worthy, should try another method.

A lower level of state spending and taxation would put those same dollars into the hands of private, well meaning citizens, who can then choose to provide educational opportunities for others, lower their own private school tuition bill, or any other form of saving or spending they see fit.  The benefit of this practice would be that citizens could practice true choice without the help of the legislators, lobbyists, middlemen, and administrators who profess to favor choice, but in practice are interested in obtaining the citizens' money.

No comments:

Post a Comment