While vouchers are routinely supported by 65% of urban residents, support levels are barely half that amount in the suburbs. Voucher proponents have grown increasingly frustrated with this resistance, and have yet to acknowledge that suburban resistance to choice is entirely reasonable and unlikely to be nagged away.

Families that purchase homes in good suburban school districts typically do so, in large part, because of the “seat license” it confers in the local schools. Choice-based reforms, on the other hand, allow students to attend schools where their family hasn’t “bought” a seat….

Those who own homes in districts with good schools risk losing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in home equity, may no longer be able to assure their children services they had purchased, and will find that local schools may no longer enjoy first crack at quality teachers or provide as uniformly desirable a peer group. [Frederick Hess, New York Sun, 4/30/03]

Well, maybe; the whole argument is on the premise that people are entitled to an education at someone else’s expense. Vouchers are a mechanism for public funding of private schools. This effectively subjects them to all the strings that are tied to institutions that receive public money–vouchers will eventually bring private education down to the level of public education. Nor do vouchers address the fundamental moral issue that individuals have no right to demand that someone else pay for educating their children. Having children is a choice. If a couple can’t afford to support children, then they shouldn’t go having children; they have no right to make that choice and then force someone else to bear the costs.

Real education reform would institute tuition tax credits, whereby individuals spend their own money on education and their taxes are decreased by that amount. Of course, such a plan doesn’t have the “altruistic” justification of sacrificing some members of society for the sake of the poor–but the notion that the poor are entitled to an education at public expense is a big reason why we’re in this mess to begin with.

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