Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sweden's and Indiana's "Choice"

In the past month the Deseret News has had several editorials supporting school vouchers or tuition tax-credits, and there are bills being written for the legislature to implement them next year. There are things we can learn from other countries as we consider adoption.

Sweden’s adoption in 1993 of vouchers, following Milton Friedman’s advice, made it universal and simple. The funding follows the student regardless of their parents’ income. Any school, non-profit, for profit, or religious can receive the government funding at the same amount as a public school. The school has to be all-inclusive, provide national standards, and have its performance monitored. They may not charge their students fees beyond the voucher. Private school enrollment has increased from 1% to about 15%. This is all according to Sweden's former State Secretary of Schools, Odd Eiken, in The Daily Caller.

This month’s Liberty Magazine, whose mission is to protect religious freedom, is reporting that there are new sweeping additions to their educational system this year. Among other things, the national curriculum will now include a very explicit sex ed. class for 11 year olds. Home schooling will be outlawed. As a result many home schoolers are fleeing the country in order to preserve their control over their children's education.

“In addition to the new home schooling restrictions, Wallqvister (Swedish Education Ministry political adviser) explained that all nongovernment-run schools—already financed by the state (vouchers) —will now be forced to adopt the national curriculum. No more praying, no more alternative teaching approaches, and no more options." What was that about vouchers providing "choice?"

After almost 20 years these private schools cannot now afford to pull out either. This certainly was not on the horizon for the private schools when it was implemented. Now their only “choice” is to obey or fold.

Indiana passed the first state-wide voucher program in the U.S. this year. According to Adam Schaeffer, Policy analyst, Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom (a conservative think tank) “…the voucher program will not only expand state control over and homogenize participating schools by requiring adherence to a single state-designed test, evaluation, and curriculum, it will also cut into the market for non-accredited (non-voucher) schools. The likely effect is a serious loss of education freedom and diversity of options in the medium-term and a near-total loss in the long term.

If you read his article, you can see the absurdity of what will now be required of private schools in Indiana accepting a voucher, and how it will push out those who wish to remain free by NOT accepting the voucher.

Think of the form of government of all the countries that have adopted vouchers. They’re all socialist! Vouchers and tuition tax credits allow the governments more control over the private schools, which PREVENTS competition! Conservatives must not be taken in by the voices claiming competition and choice, for neither will be provided with vouchers or tuition tax credits.

As Schaeffer stated, “School choice is meaningless if all the choices are the same.” In countries that have adopted voucher-type programs, private schools have had to adopt the politically correct “standards” of the government in power, employee unions, and end up pushing out those who refuse the voucher. After a while, if adopted, there will be neither competition nor choice!