By Robert Bortins (CEO, Classical Conversations)
I was recently at a conservative policy event that promoted the supposed benefits of universal school choice. Ironically, the event reaffirmed my opposition to this policy, even though I would benefit personally and financially from the outcomes.
First, universal school choice creates an economic dependency on government funding. Second, it’s not a free market solution. Finally, it really isn’t even a conservative policy, even if the big think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity have jumped onboard the taxpayer gravy train. Hats off to the Texas legislators for not jumping in the deep end with SB 1 like other states have (and will come to regret).
I Don’t Co-Parent with the Government.
You may have seen the t-shirt slogan that says, “I don’t co-parent with the government.” Well, if universal school choice is enacted, then everyone will be co-parenting with the Texas state government.
Due to demand-side economics, we are experiencing massive inflation around the U.S. The Heritage Foundation study that claimed ESAs don’t cause inflation is deceptive because the think tank didn’t use any data that reflects recent laws and current bills. Instead, the Heritage Foundation based its findings on less recent measures targeting individuals with learning disabilities and low income rather than parents who already pay for their child’s private education. That study advocates for oranges because apples. The reasoning is unsound.
Since when was relying on the government to subsidize healthy middle-class and rich families a conservative policy, anyway?
Is Universal School Choice a “Free Market” Solution?
You may have heard someone say universal school choice is a “free market solution.” No, it isn’t. Someone pushing universal school choice once told me that a free market is one where the government gives everyone the same amount of money that they can spend anywhere they want. All I could think of was that scene from The Princess Bride with Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Let’s break out the dictionary. Investopedia defines a free market as “one where voluntary exchange and the laws of supply and demand provide the sole basis for the economic system, without government intervention.” Clearly, the government giving families $8,000 a year, sourced from their neighbors’ taxes, isn’t a free market solution.
Universal basic education income is not a conservative policy. It is a neoliberal policy. Just wait for Amazon, Disney, Microsoft, and Apple to start buying up schools and implementing the ruinous principles of ESG investing across private school platforms. Wait until they start data mining your children. Just wait for China to start buying up those private school platforms and data mining your children.
Or don’t wait: they’re already doing that around the country in states that have implemented universal school choice programs.
Let me leave you with a story.
My friend Rachel is a leader for Classical Conversations in Arizona, and quite frankly, our leaders don’t take neoliberal school choice funds. However, she was recently talking to a friend who had taken ESA money and was happy for the funds.
Her friend said, “I used to work part-time to homeschool. I’d have my aunt come over and watch the kids for me so that I could go to work. Now I don’t have to do that!”
Rachel, trained in the tools of rhetoric, politely said, “Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying. Before, you relied on your own hard work and your family, and now, you rely on the government.’”
Her friend’s eyes widened as she realized what she’d done.
I would strongly urge Texas legislators to drop school choice altogether until the results of those bills that have passed in other states can be thoroughly studied.
States tax receipts are starting to plummet as the looming recession becomes apparent. A state surplus in funds can quickly become a deficit, and welfare programs like universal school choice are notoriously hard to eliminate in the future, even when they become economically unsustainable.
The government funding of so-called school choice creates economic dependency. It is not a free market solution, and it isn’t a conservative policy.
Robert Bortins is the CEO of Classical Conversations® and the host of Refining Rhetoric. The company has grown from supporting homeschoolers in about 40 states to supporting homeschoolers in over 50 countries and has become the world’s largest classical homeschooling organization under his guidance.
This op. ed. was originally posted in San Antonio Express News on Oct. 16, 2023. To read the original post, please visit here.