Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Free Choice Comes to Indiana Schools

School choice, charter schools, voucher programs and the like all promote individual freedoms for parents of K-12 age students. And they are able to do this simply by introducing the element of competition into the system of education, coupled with the MOM approach to spending for that education.

Competition for how and where taxpayer dollars are spent on educating our children is the result, and that's a good thing.

Having said that, strong and politically powerful teachers unions are unalterably opposed to anything changing the status quo and giving parents and their children the right to attend a school of their choosing by using taxpayer money, whether that be a public, private or religiously affiliated institution.

Big news is coming out of Indiana today in the form of a state Supreme Court ruling unanimously upholding the right of people to choose how to spend taxpayer dollars on their children's education.

Indiana School Voucher Program Is Upheld has the breaking news:

"The Indiana Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the law creating the broadest U.S. school voucher program, which allows students to attend private schools at taxpayers' expense.

In a 5-0 vote, the justices rejected claims that the law primarily benefited religious institutions that run private schools and accepted arguments that it gave families a choice and allowed parents to determine where the money went.

The court said the law didn't violate the state constitution's guarantee of religious freedom or a ban on the use of state funds for religious institutions. It noted that while the Indiana Constitution doesn't allow direct spending on religious institutions, it doesn't prohibit them from receiving indirect government services, "such as fire and police protection, municipal water and sewage service, sidewalks and streets."

The Indiana case has received national attention because the program has wide eligibility. Middle-class families are allowed to participate in Indiana, while in most states, such programs are limited to low-income families or those in failing schools. . . .

The Indiana State Teachers Association had filed suit over the program, saying it drained money from public schools. Its attorney, John West, told the court in November that virtually all of the voucher money goes to schools whose primary purpose is to promote the teachings of their affiliated churches.

Teacher Teresa Meredith, the main plaintiff in the lawsuit and vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, called the ruling a setback for public education.

"I still very much believe that public schools are where most of our society is educated and we need to be investing and making those the best they can be," she told the Associated Press in a phone interview. "The vast majority of students will be robbed so that a group of students can get religious education on taxpayer dollars," she added.

Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, defending the law, told the court in November that parents were free to send their children to any school they wished, public or private, religious or not.

The state Supreme Court agreed with that, saying in its 22-page opinion that the program primarily benefited parents, not schools, because it gave parents choice in their children's education."

Summing Up

The teachers unions sound like a broken record. And a most insincere one at that. What's wrong with free choice and competition? I thought that was the American way.

And it is for the most part, other than with respect to things such as our government run system of public education. But now even that monopolistic situation may be beginning to change as well.

Today's unanimous Indiana court ruling is a biggie.

So let's all stay tuned as other states and many of our larger cities and school districts wrestle with the issues of education's overall affordability and quality while simultaneously trying to fend off the onslaught of teachers unions and their political allies.

It's going to be a long hard struggle to bring competition and free choice to taxpayer supported education throughout America, but going from a change resistant status quo monopoly to freedom always is difficult. The vested interests in maintaining the educational status quo are formidable indeed.

But in the end the fight will be well worth the effort, as fighting for freedom, competitive markets and providing equal opportunities for kids and their education is definitely a fight worth having.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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