By Nate Davis
The most important conservative policy today, the one that is most likely to make this country predominantly conservative over time, is total school choice: $13,000 per student per year school vouchers. Please let me explain.
What are school vouchers? It costs about $13,000 per year for one student to attend a government-run school. With school vouchers, parents and students are allowed to take that $13,000 to another school, whether it is government-run or not. The money would follow the student. Of course, if parents and students wanted to spend their children’s $13,000 vouchers on an existing government-run school, they could.
Note: offering total school choice wouldn’t cost the taxpayer. The only issue is whether citizens can be trusted to choose the best educational route for their own children.
How will letting families choose the best education for their own children lead to a more conservative-thinking society?
It’s about ideology
Liberals have two main outlets for their social ideas — schools and the media. That is why they will fight tooth and nail to keep education as government-run as possible. If the government-loving liberals provide education (and they do), they can promote their moral, social and economic agenda to 50 million future voters at a time.
Liberal ideas must be indoctrinated, and therefore liberals must control education. That makes $13,000 school vouchers the single most important conservative idea out there. If you want to put the brakes on the leftist movement in our country, offer people choice. Privatize education with $13,000 vouchers.
If parents were given total school choice, few would choose the one that promises to promote moral relativism and government control as the solution. Some would, but not most. Many would choose schools that taught a deep sense of individual responsibility. They would choose schools with high expectations for behavior. They would chose schools that promote conservative values. Many parents who don’t live by those standards themselves would see them as the best hope for their children, and their assessment would be well founded.
Has it occurred to you that you can’t get much more socialist than the way we do grade school and high school in America? The only further step would be to outlaw schools that were not run by the government.
Socialism produces inferior products and services. (See every socialist economy from the USSR to Cuba to Venezuela.)
Can you imagine if the country was set up in districts, and for every service we had to prepay to use the one provider in that district: one dentist, one auto mechanic, one HVAC Repairman, one jeweler, one grocery, one physical therapist, etc.? On top of that, the distribution of service was organized and managed by a government bureaucracy, with pension funds and unions involved as well. Would you get the kind of service you would want? Of course not. Also, what gets into the psyche of the one who gets to be the sole provider in that district? What is the incentive to be truthful and to do things right and timely? These questions get at the angst caused by socialized efforts and are rightfully repulsive to many.
The government-run school system is a prepaid, single provider per district system with large pension funds and heavy union influence like the scenario described above. Why embrace single provider, prepaid, government bureaucracy for your children’s education?
Letting educational money follow children allows for competition and employs an army of active overseers — consumers. To those who know and understand the benefits of the free market, it is both reasonable and logical. So, not only is there the benefit of taking the wind out of the liberal agenda sail, but there are efficiencies to gain in education that will leave students better off.
Providing $13,000 school vouchers would help every American because every American benefits when citizens are better educated and better prepared to be productive. Competition will offer these benefits.
Conservative politicians are missing it
Unfortunately, the $13,000 voucher policy is low on most conservative politicians’ radar. It is time to change that thinking. Let’s consider all the constituents who would benefit from the new policy.
Providing $13,000 vouchers would help families and students because they would be able to choose between schools that offered different value propositions. If students could pick their schools, teachers would have more options to find the right fit for them, too. The $13,000 voucher would be especially helpful to the underprivileged and to children at risk. The schools in those districts are usually the worst. Finally, every conservative constituent would benefit because those who graduate from high school under total school choice would likely be more open to or supportive of conservative ideas.
Politicians need to realize that constituents overwhelmingly choose a government-run school because it is “free.” It does not mean they wouldn’t enjoy and benefit from total school choice. Still, to address concerns, we need to consider why conservatives seem to feel okay with communalist schools.
Why do so many conservative parents support government schools?
Quick answer: Financially, they have to.
For most of us, double paying for school is too much (first through mandatory taxes and then through private school tuition). When people can’t change something, they tend to make the best of the situation they have. Thus, when government-run school is the one they can afford, they make the most of it. They get to know people. They speak highly of the positive aspects. They encourage their own children and grandchildren to be successful there. They get used to it, and change can be difficult, though it seems more and more citizens are expressing they would choose something different if they could.
There are other reasons people support the local government-run school. For some, supporting the school is supporting the community. Sometimes government-school support is attached to business relationships, a means of networking in the community. Sports play an important role in a conservative’s commitment to the local government school, too. How could you not support “your team”?
Others are concerned that some special activity, like band, performing arts, science fair, etc., would be lost if most students weren’t compelled financially to go to government schools. (With vouchers, there would likely be more opportunities for quality extracurricular activities for students, not fewer.) Some may be motivated to protect their child. If a parent was to criticize the government school, would his children suffer at the hands of teachers, coaches, or administrators? It is easier to be nice.
Finally, people support the government-run schools because they have friends, family or acquaintances who work there — good people. That does not mean the system is right. In fact, these good people could do much better work outside of that system.
We have to realize that good conservatives end up supporting a socialist school system for practical reasons. But that is not to say they would not prefer total school choice.
Still, some will say, “I got a pretty good education” (who wants to claim they were poorly educated?), or “My kids like their school.” These statements ignore the alternative. They disregard options that would have been available if the government didn’t use tax dollars to disincentivize almost all competition. That is why we need people to cast a vision.
Dig deeper to see more problems
Support for local government-owned schools seems to be waning. School violence, depravity and lower educational standards have more and more people wishing they had other options.
Do your own assessment of your local government schools. I think you will find that students are often permitted to use vulgarity and profanity, educational expectations are downgraded, and liberal social ideas such as gender confusion are promoted. Certainly, we could do better.
In 2015 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducted a nationally representative survey of high schoolers:
In a 30 day period, 4.1% carried a weapon to school, and 5.6% said they skipped school at least once because they didn’t feel safe.
In one school year, almost 8% were in a fight, 6% were threatened with a weapon and 1 in 5 were bullied.
What a mess.
If you need to confront the administration for any reason, you will get a clearer picture of the inner workings of these government bureaucracies. This is the reality: government employees watch government employees behind closed doors with little accountability.
To make matters worse, union members watch over union members. The members’ commitment to protect one another’s employment, pay, and pension is a complete conflict of interests. (Unions also work very diligently to elect those school board members who will side with them.)
How do $13,000-per-year vouchers solve these problems? When there is wrongdoing, families will switch to a school that does it right. Consumers will look for schools with high expectations of employees and students. It is that simple. No bureaucracy needed. The market will decide, as it does every day with thousands of products and services.
$13,000 school vouchers: the Great Conservative Cause
Total school choice is a simple and logical extension of the most basic of conservative ideas, that is, the best choices are made by consumers, and the best products are created through competition. On top of that, total school choice frustrates the liberal’s strategy and will expose more people to conservative ways of thought — not by force, but by choice.
The government should only do the things no one else can do (e.g., roads, military, law enforcement). Expect what it does to be relatively inefficient. Expect some degree of corruption. These are just truths. For this reason, if government doesn’t have to do it, it shouldn’t. Certainly, government doesn’t have to do education. Giving the choice back to citizens with $13,000 school vouchers is best for America.
Once parents and children have money to spend on education, they will have reason for constantly evaluating the output and opportunities of one school versus the next. Reviews on public forums online will further fuel schools to be the very best they can.
The money from the vouchers would prime the pump for philanthropy, which would be very good for education. Those making donations to education providers will be voting with their dollars for the best schools.
No, charter schools don’t solve the problem. They are simply a subset of school run by the state. They are still government and will eventually fall by the wayside of all communalist efforts. Are they better for now? Yes, but they are getting in the way of the solution by putting new paint on an old pig (government school bureaucracy).
“School choice” — the ability to choose between government schools — does not help much either. The choice has to include any school, not just government schools, so the best ideas in education can be explored and exploited.
Finally, consider what America could be if students were not put through the same cookie cutter that are government-run schools, and instead were inspired and taught the way they and their parents choose. The result would be a smarter, more logical, more productive, and less indoctrinated-by-liberals electorate, and that is very good for America.
What can you do?
One of the easiest things is to change what you say.
Language matters, which is why it is best not to use the word “public” when referring to the school system. It has the appeal that socialist-minded people like to apply to government institutions. “Public” doesn’t mean “ours,” but “theirs” — those who control it. The terms government-owned and government-run work better. “My kids go to the government school” provides more clarity.
Cast a vision.
Help others imagine what schools will pop up when school funding follows the student. Schools will be safer, more focused on individual students, promoting true character, and with more committed, happier educators. Local service organizations, businesses, special industries (science, manufacturing, medicine, etc.), trade groups, arts organizations and groups of parents deeply committed to children will all be able to add their special flavor to the educational experience by starting or supporting a school in their community. Those concerned about at-risk children will be especially empowered to care for and educate them.
Urge your elected officials to give your children (or your grandchildren) $13,000 vouchers. It is a policy that makes sense, and one that could truly save our country as we know it.
Remember, government-run schools are and will always be a huge detriment to conservative values, which is why you should move the issue of $13,000 school vouchers to the top of your political wish list. Don’t do it just for the kids today. Do it for our society in generations to come.
There is simply no single policy that will help conservative ideas succeed in the future more than total school choice. None.
Nate Davis’ break-through book God The Parent was published in 2017. It is the product of reading so many unfulfilling parenting books that use a Bible verse here or there and instead mines the deep, rich vein of parenting wisdom found throughout the Bible. Nate and his wife, Ginny, have 10 children — 20 years between the youngest and the oldest. The Davis family sings a lot, laughs a lot and is most at home in the outdoors.
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