K. Lloyd Billingsley - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific
Research Institute and has been widely published on topics
including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform,
and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]
Lloyd Billingsley] 10/29/04
In five days, on November 2, Americans will
go to the polls and choose the next president of the United States.
As they ponder their options, the people might also consider
what they can and cannot choose.
They can choose senators, members of congress, and choose to
vote for or against ballot propositions on issues ranging from
the "three strikes" law to mental illness. The people
can also choose mayors and members of the local school board.
Americans can choose where to live, whom they marry, what kind
of car to drive, what sort of food to eat, what kind of clothes
to wear, what kind of computer they will use, and whether or
not they will engage in kayaking. They can decline to watch television
or choose among "The Apprentice," "Monday Night
Football," and hundreds of other options.
The myriad choices might promote the idea of a choice society,
but that is misleading. Most Americans still cannot choose the
K-12 school their children will attend.
Our government education system makes that choice for them. If
the school is failing, dangerous, or both, as many are, the options
are limited. If parents decide to send children elsewhere, their
tax money remains in the system that denies them choice and forces
them to pay twice. That stands in contrast to higher education,
which funds the student, not the system or the institution, and
allows the student to choose among UCLA, Brigham Young, Notre
Dame, Chico State, and countless others.
A better and more just approach would be to give parents and
students vouchers and allow them to choose the K-12 school they
believe best meets their needs. Other services have long followed
the same pattern.
Food stamps, for example, are vouchers, part of a government
program financed by taxpayers dollars. But the food-stamp voucher
does not force the recipient to shop at a government commissary.
They can, and do, patronize private stores. The Section 8 housing
vouchers dispensed by the government do not require the recipient
to live in a government building. Recipients can, and do, opt
for private apartments or houses.
In 2004, there is no educational or constitutional reason to
continue the practice of trapping children in failed and dangerous
government schools. Those who teach in such schools are highly
likely to send their own children to private schools.
Currently, 34.3 percent of public school teachers in San Francisco,
Oakland, and Vallejo send their own children to private schools.
The 34.3 percent is more than one third, and 9.1 percent higher
than the 25.2 percent of all families who opt for private schools.
In Philadelphia, 43.8 percent of public school teachers, nearly
half, opt for private schools. (See Denis
P. Doyle, Brian Diepold, and David A. DeSchryver, "Where
Do Public School Teachers Send Their Kids to School?" )
similar style, federal politicians prefer private schools for
their own children while consigning the masses to the government
education monopoly, a vast system of patronage better at tranferring
wealth than instructing children. Perhaps one day Americans
will be able to vote for a president who openly backs full
choice for all, as a matter of basic civil rights. In 2004,
voters still have no choice in the matter.CRO
2004 Pacific Research Institute