A better alternative to private school vouchers

I have explained before why vouchers are bad: With government money comes government strings. Lighthouse Christian Academy here in Bloomington takes in $665,000 a year from vouchers. What if state government decided that Lighthouse will no longer get any voucher money if they continue to enforce standards on Biblical sexual morality? Could Lighthouse survive that kind of financial loss?

But as dangerous as vouchers are, they do address a serious problem: The government school system indoctrinates students with propaganda, and has problems with discipline and other things. Parents want to send their children to the school of their choice to get a better education and one that supports their Christian convictions. Parents want their children to be taught to be good citizens. But low-income families may not be able to afford private school tuition. Is it just tough luck for those families then?

No. We can come up with a better solution. One alternative is a plan advanced by a Libertarian candidate for state representative here in Monroe County fifteen years ago: Tax credits for families who choose to opt out of the government school system.

Here is how it would work. Families who opt out of the government schools would be given a check from the state into an account they could use as they see fit, provided it is used for educational purposes. The advantage to this is it helps home school families in addition to those who send their children to private school. They then write a check from that account, and the government never sees where it goes. The account would be subject to audit if the family is suspected of spending the money in a way that violates the terms of the grant.

Does that perfectly insulate private schools from government meddling? No, but it provides a layer of insulation to protect those schools and their convictions. It offers opportunity for more innovation, such as home school cooperatives or even subsidizing private tutors. It is even more of a free-market solution than the voucher system purports to be. This is the reform that we need.

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