School vouchers: flimflam by any name (column) |

School vouchers: flimflam by any name (column)

Our subject here is two self-evident and highly political truths: (1) School vouchers, by whatever name they’re called, are deceitful at their core. (2) Whatever proponents may call them, school vouchers aren’t really about education at all.

We’ll talk about the ramifications of this deceit regarding vital K-12 public institutions, but first:

In the midst of an arduous analysis of higher education options a few years ago, my family gulped at a revelation about private schooling that gave us a queasy feeling — a feeling of being had.

Our son had rung just about every bell at the high school level. Accordingly, he had designs on some prestigious private schools.

On a college scouting trip, we were excited about the prospect of sumptuous scholarships. Then we put the pencil to the actual costs.

The case in each instance was that once all prospective assistance was applied, he would have been attending these private schools for almost exactly what it would cost to attend a very good state university, at in-state rates, without any student aid at all. None.

To sum up our college scouting trip, which cost a pretty penny itself: The price of a private education was set — almost criminally, to my eye — just beyond this young man’s means.

I was angry then. Now I thank the heavens for this because he joyfully attended a certain state university in Austin, Texas, and never looked back.

What does this have to do with the flimflam otherwise known as school vouchers? Well, consider what the Texas Senate just voted to do. It voted to authorize tax credits to attract business donations toward a “scholarship program” for low-income families in certain urban districts to send their children to private schools.

Ah, sweet deliverance for those “trapped” in “failing” public schools — except:

Such “scholarships” would be capped at 75 percent of what the state pays per student. That shakes down to about $6,000 a year, according to the Texas Tribune. Hence, a poor family would be on the hook for $1,300 based on the national average tuition for elementary schools ($7,355). Meanwhile, even with such a “scholarship,” a family would have to cough up a whopping $7,248 at the high school level based on a national average private high school tuition of $13,248.

In other words, if a family has trouble meeting rent and putting food on the table, there is almost no chance that it can send its children to Sacred Inheritance Academy, even under the Texas Senate’s sumptuous incentives.

Of course, even if such a family could find that kind of money, the school it desires could decline to admit its child. That’s why they call private schools “private.”

Money aside, voucher proponents assume that people in inner-city neighborhoods want to send their children away from their local schools. In truth, offers of this nature rarely create the Oklahoma Land Rush proponents imagine.

All of this brings us back to the self-evident truth that vouchers are not about education. Don’t believe it for a second. Vouchers are about association, the pursuit of homogeny, that which populates private religious schools and white-flight school districts routinely proclaimed “exemplary.”

Let’s get real. Those who assert that inner-city schools have failed know the best measure of a school, at least by their standards, is the census of pricey SUVs in the parking lot as classes let out.

Since poor families wouldn’t be able to benefit from the “scholarships” envisioned and, regardless, will wish to associate with their neighbors rather than those who have fled their kind, why would lawmakers continue to push vouchers?

Principally, it’s because for many the whole concept of tax-supported education remains alien and odious. Anything that will tunnel under that institution is something they will support.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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