In a move that might help parents break the stranglehold of leftist teacher’s unions on the minds of kids, numerous Republican members of the Ohio legislature have introduced HB 290, a “Backpack” program of school vouchers, to, like a backpack, “follow” a child to any private school of his or her choice.
It's called the backpack scholarship program, and it would direct the state treasurer to create ‘education savings accounts’ for any student who wanted one starting in the summer of 2023. The accounts would be filled with either $5,500 (K-8 grade) or $7,500 (9-12 grade) in state dollars annually and could be used to pay for things like private school tuition, homeschool supplies, after-school care, advanced placement testing fees or educational therapies.
Aaron Baer, President of the Ohio-based Center for Christian Virtue, expressed support for the bill, which its exponents purport could help alleviate problems not only associated with instructional content, but also tied to stresses caused by public school “COVID-19” edicts.
School board meetings across Ohio and across the United States have grown increasingly contentious over the last year. Fights have broken out over mask mandates, transgender student athletes and whether a legal concept called critical race theory is being taught.
Baer said all this fighting over what happens in schools has pushed some parents to leave the public system for private education, and school choice organizations like his see an opening.
And it certainly will provide a measure of choice that could free kids and parents from the public school systems they find useless and offensive.
But they do not free taxpayers from the baseline immorality of government forcing them to pay for the education of other people’s kids. And that fundamental moral problem could induce new pedagogical problems in private schools if state politicians, at any time in the future, tie ideological strings to the state-collected money that they redistribute through the vouchers.
This is a problem that, nationally, already has been encountered by administrators at Hillsdale College, in Michigan, and Grove City College, in Pennsylvania. In the 1980s, both of those schools saw the feds attack them over so-called “Title Nine violations” (Title IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Amended) for not handling men’s and women’s sports precisely equally (something that, financially, never works). Despite both schools’ attorneys arguing that the money did not go directly to the schools, but were directed to the schools by students who wanted to attend them, the Oracles at Supreme Court ruled that federal grants or loans handed to students attending those schools allowed the feds to dictate operations of the schools themselves.
Both colleges responded by choosing to start their own successful scholarship programs and to not accept students who received government cash.
It is possible that the leftists who have controlled Ohio public schools for decades will not start meddling with private schools once the state-grabbed tax cash is handed to parents and students to “follow” the child to any private school or special training program.
And, as we have seen with colleges nationwide, such artificial subsidization fuels artificially higher prices among educational establishments. While it is beneficial to get kids away from government-run public schools, taxpayer subsidy for education inspires increased demand for that which is being subsidized. Prices for private schooling will inevitably will rise.
Ever-increasing government subsidies wipe away typical consumer instincts to guard their spending, even as they erode supplier incentives to lower costs.
The Ohio move could be a first step, however, in allowing parents to get their kids out of failing public schools – even as HB 290 leaves intact extant local tax funds and federal benefits for local schools. An overall budgetary number for the state vouchers has not been determined, but, as Baer’s reaction indicates, the prospect of escape from the government-run “educational prisons” is very appealing to both parents and children who are sick and tired of the collectivism that is being pushed in public schools.
US history reveals how little government used to be involved in education, and how it led to great outcomes. Perhaps they could try teaching that history in schools.