School Choice funding without school vouchers



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Do we need Tuition Vouchers
or School Choice?


"I believe equity and efficiency call for a universal approach. If this measure was limited to low-income students, the same people would be opposing it on grounds that it wasn't universal." 

Milton Friedman,
Nobel Prize economist,
Father of School Choice


Academic Choices - YES;   School Vouchers - NO

Yes, Americans need School Choice, but not school vouchers. Vouchers are a bad funding mechanism that calls to mind standing in line for food stamps or filing a long government qualifying form like the college FAFSA (a mini tax return). Keep it simple. In the present system your child goes to school and the school gets paid for each day s/he attends. What's wrong with that?

The School Choice movement wants to change only one thing -- PARENTS get to say which school instead of the government designating one of their schools. School Choice puts child-centered funding ahead of school-centered funding.

Americans have long realized the importance of education and supported free public education with their tax dollars. Americans also have a long tradition of Choice. Shouldn't the two work together?

The Choice movement supports free public education, but invariably the private sector does things better and cheaper than government. We buy other services from the private sector, why not education? The issue is CONTROL. Is there any reason why you should not control the education dollars for your own child? 

Who supports Choice?         Iwe do!

  • Good teachers overburdened by bureaucracy and a few incompetent colleagues.
  • Parents tired of being brushed aside by the school bureaucracy.
  • Students who want to focus on art, writing, science, trades, farming, technology, or football.
  • Economists who learned that monopolies never produce the best product at the lowest cost.
  • Humanists who believe that diversity is America's strength.
  • Citizens who know our future depends on good education for informed citizens.
  • Religious believers who want their children to grow up with strong Christian, Jewish, Hindu, etc. values.
  • Businesspeople who cater to the positive influence of more choices and customer satisfaction..
  • Libertarians who believe that government who governs least, governs best.
  • Political leaders frustrated with the worst test results among developed countries.
  • Taxpayers tired of paying twice the price of a private education.
  • Minorities who know the ticket to a bright future for their children is a good education.
  • Constitutional scholars who say the federal government is outside its bounds and should stay out of education.
  • Colleges who complain that their first burden is remedial education for government school students.
  • Everyone who understands parents should participate in governing schools and in assignment of tax dollars.

Center for New Black Leadership: "From the very beginning, this has been a civil rights issue for African-American families and children. The opponents of school choice have been more interested in protecting the bureaucratic status quo of failing government schools than helping as many children as possible receive a quality education."  Michael Williams,  CNBL board member and former Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education.

Support flows from liberals, Democrats, Superintendents, Union Leaders -- Not the Usual Suspects. Here's what they said.


The Trouble is Teachers Unions

All opposition to School Choice traces back to teachers unions which seized the heart of the Government Education Monopoly. Here is what some of America's most respected thinkers had to say:

BILL BENNETT: (former U. S. education secretary):  I think the NEA is one of the most reprehensible organizations within the law. (There are some illegal organizations that are worse in the United States). It is opposed to every serious educational reform. It puts its own interest ahead of the children. It has complained so bitterly about the teaching profession that it has discouraged many people from going into teaching..." PBS debate 7/23/96

(former Tennessee governor, and U. S. education secretary): One problem is that the teachers unions opposed school choice, they get in the way of giving teachers more freedom to make their own decisions. They opposed, although Mr. Shanker (one union president) did not, to be fair about it, my efforts in Tennessee to pay teachers more for teaching well. They’re not the only problem, but they’re standing in the way.

When I was governor, as Mr. Shanker knows, I tried to raise the pay of Tennessee teachers by 70 percent if they were among the master teachers and 20 percent for all of them. The National Education Association defeated that the first year...

The second thing I tried to do was to pay the liability insurance of all the teachers just as we do state employees so teachers can’t be sued. The National Education Association, the largest teachers union, defeated that, using the teachers’ own dues for insurance because that’s how they get the teachers to join. When I was education secretary, I tried to get Keith Geiger,  president of the NEA, to go with me to try to give classroom teachers more control over how they spend federal funding--federal money. He said no because he wants to keep that control in Washington.

BOB DOLE: (former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate) I said in San Diego (my nomination acceptance speech) that if the American education system were a business, it would be failing. If it were a patient, it would be dying. We need to turn education back to the teachers and back to the parents and take it away from the union leaders and make it work in America again.


note: In June 1998 the Florida Elections Commission (FEC) ruled that union officials could not solicit, and their members could not make, campaign contributions within government buildings through the use of payroll deduction forms. This could have far-reaching ramifications in the way labor unions collect political contributions,  leading to a yearly reduction of union political money across the country by an estimated 100 to 500 million dollars. Case number 96-287 was appealed by the Education Association and on August 10, 2001, the First District Court of Appeals affirmed the FEC order.

Teachers: get help at Education Policy Institute

In Florida, the DOE reports that 2/3 of certified teachers do NOT belong to the union. We're making progress.

The extent to which the Education Monopoly will go to hide the truth

Milwaukee's School Choice experiment was evaluated by a research team headed by political scientist John Witte at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. For five years the data from this evaluation was unavailable for secondary analysis by other members of the scholarly community but that did not stop opponents from proclaiming victory.

  • The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching declared, "Milwaukee's plan has failed to demonstrate that vouchers ... can spark school improvement."
  • Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers claimed that the "private schools [in the Milwaukee Choice plan] are not outperforming public schools." 
  • The Texas State Teachers Association, a National Education Association affiliate, has avowed that "the results [in Milwaukee] have been dismal -- test scores have actually declined."
  • Harvard School of Education Professor Richard Elmore asserted that "thousands of children have participated in Milwaukee's public-private voucher experiment, ... yet we see no discernible gains in learning."
  • The head of Wisconsin's leading teacher organization echoed: "The bottom line ought to be whether kids learn more... and if you gauge it by that, it doesn't measure up."

All these assessments depended upon the Witte study. . But in February of 1996 the data was made available on the World Wide Web. Over the next several months the Center for Public Policy at the University of Houston (CPP) and the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) accessed the data, cleaned it of identifiable errors, and organized it into a readily usable format.  After correcting for detectable errors and using appropriate analytical techniques, CPP/PEPG found that students enrolled in Choice schools for three or more years substantially outperformed, on average, a comparable group of students attending Milwaukee government schools



Teacher unions act like School Choice is a risky experiment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Forty years ago Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman essentially proposed we duplicate the success of the G.I. Bill (Taxpayer funded tuition at any college of a veteran's choice) in the lower grades. Other countries implemented School Choice in various ways around the world, leaving the U.S. dead last in math and science among developed countries. Read about teacher union support in Sweden, Germany, Australia, Denmark, Netherlands, Russia, New Zealand, Belgium, France. See New Zealand's success at putting governance in the hands of parents and eliminating the bureaucracy.

These common smokescreens are focus-grouped sound bytes propagated by teacher unions: 

Smokescreen:  The best kids will leave, everyone else will remain. This falsehood comes from the tired class-warfare-based assumption that the richest and brightest will leave. Remember that parents of the richest kids in government schools have already chosen for them to be there - they had a choice. Then ask yourself - should the brightest student (or the most handicapped/challenged student) be forced to accept schools catering to mediocrity?  Should your child miss the opportunity to be the best s/he can be, so the education monopoly can convince us "we're all the same"?  No - let's celebrate our uniqueness and let you seek what is best for each unique child. With Choice, all schools, even the private ones,  constantly improve to attract students.

Smokescreen: Government schools must educate everyone, even the difficult to educate, and those kids will be left behind. Since the supreme court said "every child is entitled to an education appropriate to his needs" and established Exceptional Education, legislatures have provided more than twice the baseline funding (and frequently much higher) for dealing with special kids. Its built into the funding formula, and most School Choice legislation keeps that formula. Furthermore, the marketplace loves specialties; expect a growth of new Choice Schools providing real innovative help to children with special needs.

Smokescreen: School Choice subsidizes private schools, diverting funds away from public education. The truth is that School Choice buys a portion of government-funded education from the private sector at lower prices, just as government buys other types of goods and services. The saving stays in public education. The question  we should be asking is "Why is the cost of inferior American K-12 education higher than any other developed country, with an average per-pupil cost of $6,857", and why does the average private school do a better job at less than half the cost? The answer is bloated bureaucracy. Private and parochial schools make decisions at the school level, with the teachers and parents. Every student in a Choice School reduces the cost of government-funded education. Sure it reduces taxes to the government school, but its one less student the government school must support, and reduces the student/teacher ratio and classroom crowding for the remaining students. In fact, there is more money left for government-funded education, because private schools are CHEAPER. All proposed Choice legislation pays the Choice schools less than if the student attended a government school. The difference stays in the government schools or the taxpayer's pocket. The real fear is that teacher unions and the bureaucracy will lose their captive audience.

Smokescreen:  School Choice benefits the rich. We currently allow children from "rich" families to attend government schools for free. Should we start charging them? No, its more important to be sure everyone gets educated. If some kids want a more expensive school that graduates airplane pilots, let their parents pay the extra cost.

Smokescreen: Church/state entanglement will result from funding religious schools. Choice does not funnel government money toward religious institutions any more than it funnels money toward Microsoft when it buys software from the private sector. We buy other services from the private sector, why not education? Why should a religious affiliation prohibit any school from full participation? Are they a tainted segment of the private sector?  In June '02 a supreme court opinion stated for the fourth time that School Choice has no first amendment problem with religious schools so long as the plan does not favor any specific church. What the First Amendment says is simply this: Government cannot establish a specific religion, nor prohibit the free exercise of religion.  The original thirteen colonies each had an official state religion and the founders recognized that as a source of divisiveness. The phony "wall of separation" exists nowhere in the law, it is a phrase used by anti-religious bigots.   Still, Choice opponents try to scare some groups into thinking that Christians want to take over and impose their beliefs. Teacher unions have used groups like the Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to spread that fear. For authentic Jewish positions on how Choice benefits everyone, see Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations.

Smokescreen: Private schools are not accountable. Phyllis Schlafly answered this smokescreen succinctly saying "Public schools are currently accountable only to the political bureaucracy that the unions control. Private schools are accountable to each parent who pays the tuition and can withdraw their children if the schooling isn't satisfactory."

School Choice draws frantic criticism from the entrenched government education monopoly.. Here's how Governor Ridge responded to their irresponsible rhetoric. Great Leadership


Change Happens at the Edges

Don't expect all parents to jump ship and invade the Choice Schools the first year. People simply don't react that way. Many are perfectly content with what they are getting in government schools. Some hang back to see what positive changes occur at their existing schools.  Most kids will continue to attend the school nearest their home, or their parents work.

Actually, its a good thing that it takes several years for any change to spread. Private schools simply lack the space to properly accommodate any influx of students. If they become overcrowded like many government schools, some parents choose to stay in a less crowded school. And don't forget, in Chicago many government schools became Choice Schools and attracted students back. That is also a GOOD thing. It didn't take a mass exodus from government schools to provoke change, it happened at the edges - just because there was a choice.

The best schools  rely on superior  leadership from an excellent Principal. The problem with top-heavy bureaucracy is that the best Principals get promoted to "Administration". The children lose because the large bureaucracy sucks the talent out of the school instead of paying higher salaries which would allow great principals to stay in those leadership roles. Where would the great college sports teams be if the great coaches (teachers) got sucked into administration? 

Why are so many parents making an effort to enroll their children in quality schools: faking residency, forging documents and coercing relatives into lying for them? The point is that when the local school isn't the best one for your child, you need a choice. If your child needs special help or wants to take advantage of special opportunities, there will be a school catering to those special needs. Its how the marketplace works. To quote economist John Merrifield:  "In a competitive system, demanding buyers place relentless pressure on sellers by abandoning the lowest performers. Averages keep getting better, but harder to define, as producers specialize to gain a competitive edge by serving particular tastes and preferences".

But don't expect instant miracles.  The economic revival of the 90's resulted from a "Peace Dividend" that had its roots in Reagan's ending the Cold War many years before -- the effects of change take awhile to blossom. School Choice is not a magic wand. Some studies show that most kids don't show significant improvements till the third year of attending a Choice school. The system as a whole won't improve significantly till full and unfettered Choice unleashes the market dynamics that force every school to compete. Customer-oriented enterprises focus on continual improvement. Its steered by product design based on reactions of the few most careful buyers. That same adaptation takes place in all schools that deserve to survive the Choice revolution.


Other Countries

New Zealand did not waste time with 'experiments'. Choice began in the 70's, came into full bloom 10/1/89, and is an overwhelming success. Read the testimony of Maurice McTigue, Cabinet Minister and Member of Parliament  Choice Kiwi-style.

Danish policy requires Choice Schools to charge a low tuition to ensure a financial stake and high commitment to those schools. Also, each school must be governed by a board elected by parents.

Dutch schools are 2/3 private with equal funding and wide diversity to reflect many interests and religions.


Why is School Choice so important?

"Education is the foundation of liberty; the surest result of ignorance is tyranny."

Richard Webb

Education must accomplish five goals

  1. Empower us to appreciate the world and enjoy the richness of life.

  2. Transmit the family's values.

  3. Provide a framework for making decisions.

  4. Prepare us to contribute skills in the workplace.

  5. Preserve our freedom

Education is the key

Education is at the core of  freedom. That truth was given by a cab driver in San Jose, Costa Rica in 1984. That cab driver also proved that average folks in his so-called third world country know more about the world than average folks here in the U.S. They have a 94% literacy rate (ours is about a third less) and consequently they have more FREEDOM.

That's right, there is more freedom in Costa Rica than in the U.S. We Americans are so self-centered, we believe that we have the best education and the most freedom on earth, but its no longer true. If you have never seen the pathetic answers Jay Lenno gets when he asks simple questions about government to people on the street, try this -- ask any student where we get our freedom. Nine out of ten will mistakenly tell you "We get our freedom from the government".

The government schools no longer teach children that freedom is an inalienable right endowed by our Creator -- a God-given right protected by the Constitution. If we don't know where freedom comes from, how can we protect and defend it? And if there is one lesson history teaches, it is that if you are not vigilant about protecting freedom, you lose it. Our history is under attack. Why? In the words of Alexander Soljenitsin "The way to destroy a people is to sever its roots." Totalitarianism's technique is to make your founding fathers and heroes into villains, and empty children's souls of love of country. This leaves a void to be filled by the "Cultural Revolution".

We can reverse our loss of freedom in America by taking back control of education from the Government Education Monopoly (the bureaucracy and unions) and giving it to PARENTS. Why does your state buy all sorts of goods and services from the private sector, but it only buys education from government schools? John Taylor Gatto, former New York Teacher of the Year and author of Dumbing Us Down shows it is because the Government Education Monopoly wants to dictate the curriculum. Al Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers. says "we need a common curriculum" . And who do you suppose has manipulated and dictated that curriculum to fit their own agenda? The education monopoly wants to infuse the mind of your child with their own political agenda. Instead of trusting or respecting parents. Elitist educators want to cram their liberal ideology down everyone's throat so kids believe we are "all the same" regardless of the choices we make. Even if you are part of the minority that agrees with their current agenda, why shouldn't you as parents have the choice? What will happen when you don't agree with them?

In 1983, A Nation At Risk urgently recommended reforms in education warning "the United States is under challenge from many quarters". In 1997 the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) documented our last-place ranking in the world. Today we're at greater risk than ever. The Government Education Monopoly continues to imperil our economy by failing miserably at preparing the workforce. Business increasingly looks for talent overseas. The world's greatest concentration of PhD's is in Seoul, Korea and half of Americans can't even find Seoul on a map. Microsoft India tapped Indian programming and engineering skills with 83,000 certifications issued in 1999. The number has grown every year. We import 107,000 H-1B professionals every year, half of them with PhD's. Unless we re-tool education, there is a strong likelihood that America will get overtaken in education the way we did in automobiles. 

Before the 70's our economy was based on the automobile, but a complacent automobile industry failed to make changes. Japanese cars invaded, and canceled our dominance. The resulting outflow of dollars to Japan devastated our economy. Its about to happen again, this time to pay high salaries to well-educated workers overseas. China graduates far more engineers than the U.S. In 2005 average engineering pay was $85,000, in China $8,500.

Jimmy Carter rewarded the teacher's unions for their election support by establishing the wasteful Department of Education. Since then, by every measure, education has degenerated into a crisis. Those of you who are deeply involved know there is no "fix". A revolution in the purchasing of education was proposed almost 40 years ago by Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman and is finally sweeping the nation. The School Choice concept has already scored a profound impact as the best government schools see the inevitability of Choice and try to adapt. Teachers unions spend tens of millions of their members money on false propaganda against any legislation or candidate in favor of School Choice. But School Choice victories in the courts, at the ballot box, and in all honest studies tell parents, teachers, and taxpayers that Choice will prevail.

To ensure the widest public’s support, Choice legislation must offer more freedom, be simple to understand, increase accountability, and not increase anyone’s tax burden. We recommend the model legislation referenced below.


Books to Read

  • Free to Choose, Milton & Rose D. Friedman

  • Dumbing Us Down, John Taylor Gatto

  • Revolution at the Root, Eggers and Leary

  • Public Schools by Choice, Nathan (ed.)

  • Who Chooses? Who Looses?, Fuller & Elmore

  • Break These Chains, McGroarty


"First God created idiots. That was for practice. Then he created school boards"

Mark Twain


This article brought to you by 4Choice, dedicated to School Choice without School Vouchers.

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