Five Reasons Republicans Should Not Support Vouchers
Though few may pay it the attention it’s due, the Republican Party has a Platform snapshotting a picture of the basic things Party members generally believe. Oklahoma has its own Platform created through a process that eventually ends in a vote of acceptance at their biennial convention. The Oklahoma County GOP has a very good one page summary of the OKGOP Platform here.
According to this OKGOP Platform, these are five reasons Republicans should NOT support ‘School Choice’ vouchers (please see “An Analysis Of Three Oklahoma Voucher Bills” for more information on what the bills say):
- Republicans believe in “limited government“. In fact, that is where the term “conservative” arises. We wish to ‘conserve’ the rights to the people by limiting government to the smallest footprint possible. Every universal voucher bill filed in the senate creates 6 to 7 sections of NEW LAW. In fact, they expand the Oklahoma Treasurer’s office by providing it not less than 20 new duties.
- Republicans believe in “personal, moral responsibility“. Taxpayers are forced to pay taxes to governments. If their taxes are not paid, the government will either take our property or our liberty (by throwing us in jail). Once the money leaves our hands, it’s not ours anymore. It is placed into one giant pot over which we have minimal control – through our legislators (taxation with representation) – as to how it’s spent. We can’t use government as a bank – our money isn’t earmarked as ours once it goes into the pot – all we can do is use the services our lawmakers choose to provide us for the money we must provide them from our budgets.
- It is our personal, moral responsibility to raise and educate our children the way we believe is best.
- It is the personal, moral responsibility of our elected lawmakers to do what is necessary to make government – including public schools – produce results and be accountable to the taxpayer whose dollars they appropriate.
- It is the personal, moral responsibility of parents to move their lawmakers to force educational results (accountability) on our public schools, but it is also our personal, moral responsibility not to go to our lawmakers and demand more of our neighbor’s money so that we can put our children in schools we couldn’t otherwise afford without help. That is called welfare and/or socialism – definitely NOT a Republican ideal.
- Republicans believe in “individual liberty“. If the government gives a private school taxpayer dollars from the public coffers, taxpayers have the right to demand accountability for those dollars. This accountability can put boundaries on “individual liberty”. The Class Wallet debacle shows this to be true in spades.
- In 2020, Oklahoma government officials – including now State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ryan Walters – contracted with a PRIVATE organization called “Class Wallet” to disseminate over 17 million dollars in GEER funds (Governor’s Emergency Educational Relief). Parents who privately schooled their children were gifted $6500 for tuition to the tune of 10 million dollars total through the “Stay In School” program. Public school parents who needed help schooling their children online were gifted up to $1500 through the “Bridge The Gap” program.
- Today, federal and state auditors are investigating over one half million dollars in GEER funds that were spent on things other than education, essentially defrauding the taxpayer. This same thing also happened in Arizona, through their private voucher program.
- According to The Frontier, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) is sending emails to identified users of the programs – for apparent accountability measures – asking, “What was the particular purpose surrounding your purchases during the pandemic?” And “were you homeschooling your children, or were they still in school?” ROPE has expressed continuous concern that homeschooling families taking government money would be assimilated by the government. The government gave away the money without guardrails – what good could it do to determine if families schooled at home or not?
- Once the government begins to separate homeschooling families from private school families and online public school families from homeschooling families, Oklahoma’s previously undefined, but Constitutionally protected use of education “by other means” is in jeopardy of becoming regulated by the state, thus subverting the “individual liberty” of parents to school their children without state interference.
- Republicans believe in “state sovereignty“. Unfortunately, the Oklahoma legislature and public schools LOVE to get federal funding. In fact, according to this article from 2022, Oklahoma is 15th in the amount of federal funding we receive.
- According to the Department of Education, the feds provide considerable funding to Oklahoma schools at the state level (and the chart at the bottom of the page does not show individual federal grants for which school districts may also apply) and that number grows every year.
- During the pandemic, Oklahoma schools that applied for federal ARPA funds, schools were required to create COVID-19 ‘safety’ plans that mirrored CDC guidance which included the “universal and correct wearing of masks”, despite a legislature-passed law preventing schools from requiring children to wear masks. This excellent example shows that ‘free money’ isn’t ‘free’ and that it WILL come with strings that will effect the sovereignty of the school – or PARENT – that takes it.
- Republicans believe in the “free market“. Public/private partnerships are not “free market”. Once the government – at any level – injects money into a private company/organization/school, the business to which the funds were given, now has an edge over the wholly-privately-owned businesses that weren’t able to, or didn’t, capitalize on on government handouts.
- Nowhere is this better seen than the distribution of CARES Act monies. According to Forbes, private equity firms used federal funds to boost profits, crushing their competitors, the ‘little guys’ who weren’t able to capitalize on federal loans.
- The “free market” describes a system of business free from government intervention, where businesses compete with each other so that the best companies prevail. Injecting public funds into a private school will create an imbalance in the private school system in which those taking state funding will grow and those that don’t, won’t. Sadly, the ones NOT taking public funds will do so to retain their autonomy, yet parents will slowly be denied access to an autonomous private school as the public-fund-sucking schools overpower their marketshare – leaving parents – AGAIN – with less choice than they had BEFORE government intervention.
Vouchers, like the Republican-pushed Common Core before it, are not based on Republican ideals and they will not work for Oklahoma families just like they haven’t in states like Arizona that have tried them.
As we’ve pointed out again and again, Oklahoma HAS SCHOOL CHOICE! We have a voucher program – the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship for children with disabilities. We have the Opportunity Scholarship Fund which uses donations to “help[s] low-income families bridge the financial gap between what they can afford and what is best suited for their student for specialized PreK-12 education”. According to the Oklahoma section of the “National School Choice Week” website, Oklahoma has approximately 60 charter schools, several magnate schools, over 200 private schools, six fully online public schools, Constitutionally protected homeschool, and “learning pods”. The idea that ‘vouchers’ are required to somehow provide parents with school choice, should make one wonder then – what exactly do the people pushing “school choice” legislation really want?
Excellent analysis! Republicans need to do their homework and look under the hood and kick the tires before they buy into the “school choice” narrative.
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