School Choice: Do We Dare Make It Federal?

 

It has often been pointed out that the Federal Government does not run an elementary or high school, or directly educate a single student. And so, when the national Republican platform includes charter schools, vouchers, or school choice, it often looks like an irrelevant cheap shot — not dissimilar to observations about Hollywood marriages.

But there is a way we could force states to adopt school choice: we could do precisely what the government already does when it shares highway money, or student loans, or a host of other packages for states. We could tie federal grants to conformance with federal policy on school choice.

On the one hand, this would be a Bad Thing: it is this kind of policy bloat that reduces states’ rights, and has forced schools and state governments into huge and unsustainable growth to jump through federal hoops. On the other hand, the states could, in principle, merely say “no thank you” to the “free” money, and go their own way.

The irony about this, if it came to be, is that the states who would turn down the ties between school choice and federal grants would be the left-wing states where teachers’ unions are all-powerful. In other words, a unintended consequence of tying federal grant and aid to school choice might be a push for states’ rights by liberal states.

I do believe that school choice is the ideal wedge issue: it is simple, it is supported by the vast majority of the electorate (especially minorities), and it would be very hard (but not impossible) for Obama to veto.

Do we dare? We we believe in using the same tools as the liberals — but for other ends?

There are 12 comments.

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  1. user_1700 Coolidge
    user_1700
    @Rapporteur

    I support it, iWc. The concept pushes responsibility for disbursing federal dollars down to lower levels outside of Washington DC, and if the total dollars remain the same, it is trivial to refute the libs’ usual canard that conservatives are “starving education”.

    • #1
  2. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    It has often been pointed out that the Federal Government does not run an elementary or high school, or directly educate a single student.

    Not to quibble, but don’t some federal agencies run schools?  I’m thinking of the Department of Defense and Department of the Interior, for example.

    • #2
  3. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Basil Fawlty:

    It has often been pointed out that the Federal Government does not run an elementary or high school, or directly educate a single student.

    Not to quibble, but don’t some federal agencies run schools? I’m thinking of the Department of Defense and Department of the Interior, for example.

    Hm. Perhaps I should have said that the Department of Education does not directly educate anyone. Though any student of government can learn quite a great deal from their hijinks!

    • #3
  4. user_428379 Thatcher
    user_428379
    @AlSparks

    I’m against it. Two words. Common Core.

    • #4
  5. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Al Sparks:I’m against it.Two words.Common Core.

    This is precisely the question. Common Core was also forced by the Feds. Are all things forced by the Feds wrong? Do we oppose the tool in principle, or just the content?

    I’d like to see a consistent message and principled approach. But untying federal strings is not going to happen soon – and neither will ending these funding programs. So do we go halfway and use the same tools for ideas that are, themselves, pro-freedom?

    If so, School Choice would seem to be the poster child.

    • #5
  6. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    I’m opposed in principle to the federal government financing education and telling states what to do in education, even if they are telling them to do something that I think is a good practice.

    • #6
  7. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Totally opposed.

    It’s a bad idea not because it’s a Republican or Democratic idea—the original Department of Education was passed by Republican Congress!—but because centralizing education into a huge national bureaucracy will encourage excellence in the same way that every other huge national bureaucracy does.

    Federal meddling in education has raised costs monumentally since the latest iteration of the Department of Ed. was created.

    As with most other things, the best thing Republicans can do at the Federal level is to end programs.  Start with the Dept. of Ed and Common Core.

    Then let the states figure it out.

    • #7
  8. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Any further validation of Federal involvement in education is merely to prop up the Progressive project.

    “Any institution not explicitly conservative will become liberal with the passage of time”—O’Sullivan’s Law

    • #8
  9. Mendel Inactive
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    I’m also opposed in principle, for many of the reasons stated above.

    But I would add an exception: if we’re talking about grants the federal government already distributes, I could envision a legislative debate in which Republicans first insist that K-12 educational grants (whichever ones happen to be under discussion) be eliminated all together, and then use the school-choice demand as a fall-back compromise position.

    • #9
  10. Julia PA Member
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    Randy Weivoda:I’m opposed in principle to the federal government financing education and telling states what to do in education, even if they are telling them to do something that I think is a good practice.

    It is a bad idea for the federal government to tell any state what to do in regards to education. It is just an overstep. Education is local. And the meaning of local is determined by the Locals! If locals want their locality to be a county, so be it. Or a town, or a city, or a unification of towns & cities. No matter the end result, it is the locals who should decide.

    I may be wrong, but I’m not sure there was ever a national referendum by all ‘localities’ to determine that education should be controlled by the feds.

    What the federal government could do to support education is to STOP stealing taxpayer dollars from one state to redistribute to another state.

    As soon as possible: Return every dollar of taxes currently connected to “education,” back to the STATE where it came from. And no longer ‘collect’ taxes based on the need to educate anyone.

    Those who lose their jobs in DoE will likely find some way to contribute to education at a state or local level. If not, then they were irrelevant, even while cloaked inside the federal education leviathan.

    • #10
  11. Julia PA Member
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    Some years ago, my school district was considering RttT grants. In the end they decided against it. The resources needed to create the proposal and manage it were too costly, even with the $feds$.

    My argument at the time was “Race to the Top” of what? The feds were going to give schools and states grant money to start programs, but when the grant money ran out, the school/state would be obligated to continue the program, at their own cost.

    So, if a school or state isn’t willing to pay for the cost of a ‘proposal’ without the $feds$ maybe they don’t really want that proposal and its supposedly promised outcome.

    RttT always seemed to me to be a giant ballon loan with a 100% increase in the debt payment when the grant went dry–which it was promised to do.

    • #11
  12. The Mugwump Inactive
    The Mugwump
    @TheMugwump

    New Mexico spends $10,000 per year per student on education (about the national average).  The charter school where I teach receives $4,000 per student in direct payments from the state to run our entire operation.  In other words, 60% of the budget is absorbed by administrative costs before any of the money ever reaches campus.  Just imagine what kind of education the additional $6,000 per student might buy under a properly administrated school voucher program.

    • #12

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