BORTINS: Universal educational vouchers is not a winning policy


Don’t believe the press releases from universal school voucher enthusiasts ― it wasn’t a winning message in the swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona this past election.

The GOP should abandon expanding taxpayer-funded school choice and focus on empowering parents, not expanding the reach of more government. The GOP will be making a big mistake if they decide to enact universal taxpayer-funded school choice policies, which will increase dependency on the government and normalize welfare for all.

Exit polls show that three main groups vote for Democrats ― single women, people with advanced degrees, and welfare recipients. Those who vote Republican are men, married women, and those without advanced degrees.

Marxism is the economic theory where central government controls all funding. You can’t defeat Marxism being taught in the public school system by expanding the Marxist financing mechanism.

The policy of expanding government-funded vouchers will take the “men and married women” category of voters and move them into the “welfare” category. Corey DeAngelis, who is a spokesperson for enacting universal school choice, cites food stamps as a good policy comparison because of its transferability.  

Who do those on food stamps generally vote for? Democrats.

Republicans in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona ran on universal school vouchers, and the results were disastrous ― losing state representative seats, governorship, and senate seats. School choice itself is an idea worth supporting but expanding the welfare state to do so is not a winning strategy.  

Many proponents of universal taxpayer-funded school choice call Arizona the gold standard for their bill signed by the Republican governor. If winning elections is something you’d like to do, then clearly, it is gold for democrats, who flipped the governorship. It is still early, but some early results showed that less than 1% of Arizona students left the public school system last year while tens of thousands of previously privately funded students went back to public schools.  

“What about the kids? We need to help the kids?” Yes, but universal school choice does not help them. You are not helping the kids when you are creating policy that promotes dependency on the government and increases government control on their lives. If you are embracing government collecting taxes and then using those taxes to pay for private education, you aren’t getting kids out of the public system, you are putting more of them into it because they are being funded by public dollars.

Roughly 10% of students are not in government-funded K-12 institutions in the United States. Imagine if universal school choice is enacted and the number of students who are free of government dependency drops to less than 1%. As adults, they will vote for progressive ideas like Universal Basic Income, single-payer health care, and a host of other welfare programs because they will be inured to the idea that the government provides funds for their use, not the private sector.

Good governance requires oversight. Oversight requires money and power. As a taxpayer and a conservative, we should demand oversight of how our taxes are being spent. These vouchers literally open the door to your home to more government. You might say that the government wouldn’t do that, but it already does in states such as Alaska, Michigan, and California with more limited vouchers. The laws may be initially passed with limited or no controls, but that will quickly change because good governance demands it.

The good news is we already have true school choice in North Carolina. We don’t need taxpayers to pay for every student and for every school option. You can homeschool or send your kids to a private school or a government institution. Conservatives should promote policies that lower true costs for families, help them keep more of their money in their own pocket, and encourage private and direct private investment in education locally. That is a winning message, not just today but for our future. The kids are depending on you.

They are worth it.

Robert Bortins is CEO of Classical Conversations in Southern Pines