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School Voucher Programs Only Work for Those Who Don’t Need Them

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A bill being introduced in the South Dakota House would provide tax rebates for property owning parents with either home or privately schooled children. The rebate would come in the form of reduced property taxes and be capped at 80% of the yearly expenditure per pupil, currently about $3700.

The bill is designed to be revenue neutral by cutting school districts’ capital expenditures and raising rates on other property owners. Proponents of the bill argue that private and home schooled children save public school systems money, while parents of these children are paying twice for education.

In other news, people who hire private security guards, those who buy their own books, and apocalyptic survivalists with bunkers and arsenals are also demanding their tax money back because they have chosen not to use the police, the library, and military respectively.

If these ideas sound ridiculous, it is because they are; and so are school voucher programs, no matter how they are formulated. Government exists to serve the general public interest. It is not a vending machine designed to give everyone exactly the amount of candy they are willing to pay for.

The reality is that most, but not all, people who decide to home or private school their children do so for religious reasons. Most of the rest are relatively wealthy families that demand higher standards, i.e. college preparatory academies. Such constituencies are usually better organized, and/or better funded, and hence are having their concerns taken seriously by the legislature in a way that other groups’ demands are not.

There are obviously issues surrounding public schools that have many concerned parents wishing to find an educational scenario that better suits them for whatever reason. Sadly, many states have succumbed to these demands and implemented a voucher system that serves only to worsen the original problem by stripping those public schools of both funds and the type of parents who are actually concerned about their children’s education.

In the case of this particular bill, renters, who are less likely to be able to afford alternative schooling, are excluded from the benefits, while all other property owners, whether they have children in school or not, are saddled with the costs.

Ultimately, families should have the right to choose home or private schooling, they just shouldn’t expect help paying for that choice, especially when it comes at the expense of our already woefully underfunded public educational system.

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