School Choice Is UnAmerican

When I was busy listing reasons that conservatives should be opposed to school choice, I skipped over a biggy.

School choice is taxation without representation.

When some cranky old fart (crankier and older than I am, anyway) wants to complain about having to pay taxes for schools when his kids aren't even IN school any more, I have a standard answer. Schools are not a service for parents. The people who produced the student are not the only "customers" for the school.

The educated human who emerges from school will become a neighbor, an employee, a parent, a spouse, a voter, a (one hopes) involved citizen, a person whose job will contribute in some way to the life of the community. Everybody who will ever deal with her in any of those capacities shares the benefits of that education. They are all "customers" of public education. Whether they are relatives of the educatee or not is hardly the point.

We all have a stake in public education. We all pay taxes to support public education. And we all get to vote on who will manage the operation of our schools (well, unless we are in occupied territories like Philadelphia or Newark).

School choice throws all of that out the window. Do you think it's a bad idea for a student to attend Flat Earth High School or Racial Purity Elementary School or God Is Dead Day School? Well, under school choice, if you don't have a kid, you don't have a voice. Too bad for you.

Oh, your tax dollars will still go to that cute school where the mascot is Jesus riding a dinosaur -- but whether you're upset because that mascot is ironic or because it isn't, you don't get to complain.

And that's not the worst of it. In PA, we've already seen how this works with cyber-charters -- just thirty or forty families can decide that an entire school district will have to make massive cuts. When they jump ship, they don't just take their own tax dollars with them -- they take the tax dollars of all their neighbors as well, and those neighbors get no say in the matter at all. Even electing new school board members won't make a difference.

Local control of schools used to be one of the last remaining arenas in which regular folks, regular taxpayers still had a say (yes, I know, large city school politics are a messy cesspool of, well, politics -- but that's not where we all live). School choice undercuts that power, sometimes removing it completely. I don't see how any part of the political spectrum can think that's a great idea.