Whose Money Is It?

Last week, the Texas House effectively killed school choice, at least for now. By a vote of 103-44 in the Republican controlled House, legislators prohibited the use of tax money for private schools. Gov. Gregg Abbott, who supports school choice, said that the issue may be revived before the legislative session ends.

The debate over school choice has largely focused on the claim that school vouchers will deprive government schools of desperately needed funds. Whether this is true or not is really irrelevant, for it evades a fundamental issue: whose money are we talking about?

Opponents of school choice argue that we–all Texans–have a responsibility to fund government schools. They treat our money as public property that can be confiscated for purposes they deem desirable. As an example, consider the words of Rep. Abel Herrero, the Democrat who sponsored the budget amendment to ban vouchers. He said,

I think, regardless whether you’re talking a child that has special needs or disabilities or not, that the state (should) meet its obligation to them and all other students in their neighborhood schools to ensure that we provide the necessary resources and funds to ensure our teachers have the resources ensured to educate every child.

But what about those who don’t want their children educated in neighborhood schools? What about those who object to what is taught in government schools? Their desires and concerns are considered irrelevant, and they will continue to be forced to surrender their money.

School choice would allow parents some control over how their money is spent in regard to education. Supporters of government schools don’t want parents to have that control. Giving parents more control means less control for politicians and educational bureaucrats.

If your neighbor broke into your home and stole money to pay for his children’s education, his action would be regarded as criminal. The principle does not change merely because state officials act as the middle man.

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