Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Objections and Questions on My Catholic School Closing Comments Answered

My comments regarding the New Jersey Star-Ledger article NJ Catholic schools fight to keep doors open as future dims generated a lengthy discussion. Below are my replies to selected remarks and questions.

kmop wrote: “And how much would those tax credits amount to?  A poor person won't be able to afford a private school just on credits alone.”

I replied:

True. But no person's freedom should be restricted by another person's inability to meet their needs.

Nonetheless, my proposal addresses your concern. Please re-read my original post. If you can, you should read my article linked to above in its entirety.

bayshore lady wrote: “Most of the pro-voucher crowd,IMO,really don't care that the low income parents won't be able to afford private schools.What they want is tuition assitance for the schools they already send their kids to.”

I replied:

Perhaps. But I don't support "assistance" for private school parents. In fact, I'm totally against such government assistance. I support private school parents being free to spend their own money on their own children. Why should parents who don't use the public schools be forced to assist, through taxes, the tuition of parents who do?

kmop wrote: “If government is subsidizing the cost [of private education], [private schools] will need to follow government regulation.”

I replied:

True enough—if the government is actually subsidizing the cost of education.

If an individual is spending his own money, there is no justification for government regulation. Vouchers are subsidies. Tax credits are not.

bayshore lady wrote: “And those of us who have adult children would love a tax credit for not having kids in school,too,but it ain't gonna happen.My husband and I paid property taxes long before we had school age children.snd continue to do so after our kids have been out of school.”

I replied:

Under my tax credit proposal, the aggregate amount currently spent on public education would not decrease. Tax credits would be tied to the sponsorship of a child’s education, whether one’s own or someone else's. Every full tax credit = one less child for the government to educate. Otherwise, the taxpayer continues to pay into the public schools.

That said, I believe it’s morally wrong to force anyone to pay for the education of another person’s child. It’s wrong for government to dictate what is taught, how it is taught, and who can teach it. Parents have a moral right and responsibility to educate their child according to their own judgement with their own money, or money voluntarily contributed by others. The fact that public education has been around for a long time does not justify maintaining the status quo, morally or practically. Jim Crow laws lasted almost a century; “Separate but equal” for 6 decades. Should they not have been changed?

Abolition of the government schools is politically unpalatable today. My proposal is a middle ground: It maintains some elements of the statist status quo, while increasing individual rights, liberty, and competition in education. A good step in the right direction, I believe.

Kevin Foley asked: “Zemack, can you reconcile why it is acceptable to pay private/religious school tuition at the college level through the GI bill (which is tax dollars) but not at the primary/secondary level?”

I replied:

I consider GI education vouchers fundamentally different from the typical primary/secondary voucher scheme.

The GI Bill is compensation for services rendered to the country—in effect, part of the serviceman’s salary, like a fringe benefit. How he spends his benefit is his business. It is not really taxpayer money, any more than the money Ford receives in exchange for its cars is still the consumers’ money.

Kevin Foley wrote: “Sort of a contractual arrangement where your service is the consideration.  I don't disagree.

I see paying property taxes as a similar contractual obligation, only in that arrangement, the government dictates how tuition dollars can be spent, whereas the GI Bill they can't.”

I replied:

A contract implies a mutually beneficial voluntary agreement. Property taxes are not a contract. To the extent that taxes fund legitimate government functions—functions that protect individual rights, like the police or the military—they are valid. But it is still not a contract, in my view.

As to the school “tuition”—the education portion of the property tax—it is pure redistribution of wealth. That’s bad enough, but taxpayer funding of religious schools (through vouchers) violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That seems pretty clear to me.

Kevin Foley wrote: “The Supreme Court found in Zelman v Simon-Harris that vouchers used for religious education did no violate the establishment clause as long as 5 conditions were met.”

I replied:

This is the other problem with vouchers; the conditions attached to them. Vouchers threaten private schools’ autonomy; effectively taking the “private” out of the private schools. E.G.: Consider Louisiana's voucher scheme. That’s why I like tax credits (properly structured). They remove the incentive and justification for government to dictate how the money is spent.

Related Reading:

Catholic Schools Are Struggling to Stay Open: (Partial) Solution, Tax Credits

    My replies to TOS letters regarding my article Toward a Free Market in Education:

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