Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tax Dollars for School Choice

Tax Dollars for School Choice
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
August 30, 2011

John Sherlock of Indianapolis is misguided. Not to pick on Mr. Sherlock, but he sure needs to get a clue about whose money is whose.

In a letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star on Sunday August 28, Sherlock jumped to the popular misconception that tax dollars are the government’s money to do as it will. “It is totally inappropriate for parents to expect to use taxpayers’ money to fund their children’s education at religiously affiliated schools,” wrote Sherlock.

Just where does Sherlock think the government procured said “taxpayers’ money?” That should be a rhetorical question, but clearly needs answering. As though it should be the question to a Jeopardy! answer in the category of “Stupid Answers,” the TAXPAYERS, Sherlock.

As the adage goes, follow the money. Parents earn money on the job. Part of that money pays the property taxes on their house – tax money used to fund the public schools. Perhaps these parents choose not to subject their children to the failing public schools of Indianapolis. Since the money used to fund the public schools they choose not to use originated with the parents, why not have that money stay with the parents to send their children to the schools of their choice?

In his letter, Sherlock referred to giving money to parents who in turn give it to religious schools as a ruse for what he believes is the government funding of religion. The ruse, Mr. Sherlock, is that the money belongs to the government in the first place.

As for those renters with school-aged children, part of their rent paid to the landlord is used to pay the property taxes on that apartment building. That portion of the property taxes used for public education funding should also be returned to those renters wishing to enroll their children in a religion-based school.

Libertarian thinking would defund all public schools and make parents responsible for financing their children’s education 100 percent. But, for the same reason citizens without children pony up to keep the school doors open, there is a societal benefit to having public schools funded by those who do not have children.

Without public schools, even miserably failing ones, more youths would be roaming the streets uneducated. Ultimately the burden of their support would fall on the shoulders of the taxpayers, funding the unemployment and food stamps of the public school uneducated children.

On second thought, why not privatize the entire public school system, by enlisting corporate sponsorship of the schools, just as they would a sports stadium. This would create a competitive arena, grant the corporations a nice tax write off, and for sponsoring schools, the corporation would endear itself to the local community who would, in turn, buy their products. It’s win-win.

Under a system of privatization, bloated costs could be reduced and expenses would be meted out more efficiently because corporations have stockholders and boards of directors to whom they answer. The corporations would have a vested interest in the success of the students as potential future employees as well – again a win-win.

In order for such a plan to work successfully, the rank and file must dispel themselves of the misguided notion that taxpayers’ dollars belong to the government and not the people earning them.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

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