Universal Educational Vouchers Is Not a Winning Policy

Written by Robert Bortins

Don’t believe the press releases from universal school voucher enthusiasts: it wasn’t a winning message in Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Arizona governorships and Senate seats.

These are all swing states the GOP needs to win to take back the presidency and states where a GOP senator or two could protect the country from radical left-wing policies. But vouchers didn’t move the needle in any of them.

The GOP should abandon taxpayer-funded school choice and focus on empowering parents rather than expanding the state. We all make mistakes, and the GOP will be making a big one if they decide to enact universal taxpayer-funded school choice policies that will empower the government, ultimately creating dependency upon government programs, expanding government control, and leading to inflation.

Exit polls show that three main groups vote for Democrats: single women, those with advanced degrees, and those on welfare. Those who vote Republican include men, married women, and those who did not spend extra time in the Marxist indoctrination centers we call schools and colleges. A house divided will not stand, and you cannot defeat an idea by spreading its enticements yourself. Marxism is as much about who controls the purse strings as the ideas that are directly taught.

In short, you can’t defeat the Marxism being taught in the school system by expanding the Marxist funding to those who’ve opted out of the system. Universal taxpayer-funded school choice is just taking the “men and married women” category and moving those voters into the “welfare” category. Corey DeAngelis, a spokesperson for universal school choice, often cites food stamps as a good comparison for universal school choice. Who do those on food stamps generally vote for? Democrats. Why would anyone who wants freedom from government favorably compare anything to food stamps?

Republicans in the swing states of Arizona, Michigan, and others ran on universal school choice, and the results were disastrous for the GOP. States where we could have easily picked up or defended governorships and Senate seats were lost. School choice itself is an idea worth supporting, but expanding the welfare state to do so in the form of universal school vouchers is not a winning message.

Many proponents of universal taxpayer-funded school choice bills call Arizona the gold standard. If winning elections is something you’d like to do, then clearly, it is gold for Democrats, who picked up statewide seats after enacting the law. It is still early, but some early results showed that less than 1 percent (about four thousand students) left the public school system while ten thousand joined the public welfare roll. Those signing up were middle class and higher and were already out of the Marxist schools. Meanwhile, prices for goods and services in Arizona are climbing because of the “free money” entering the system.

For example, suppose you are a school that has room for one hundred students, and you charge $7,000 a year in tuition and are generally full. Now that these students each get about $7,000 in voucher money, the savvy administration will slowly increase their tuition to $14,000 over the next few years. They know the families could already afford $7,000, and now they’re getting $7,000. I have a friend who is a college president, and he said that when he goes to funding and financing meetings with other colleges, they mostly talk about how they can get more government money and how they can use this to raise tuition. This is what will happen to K–12 education if the government picks up a good portion of the check through universal taxpayer-funded vouchers.

What about the kids? We need to help the kids, right? Yes, and universal school choice does not help them. You are not helping the kids when you are creating a policy that promotes dependency on the government, increases government control on their lives, and makes things in life more expensive. If you take the king’s coin, you become the king’s man. By expanding Marxist funding to the private sector, you are not, in fact, helping the kids get out of Marxist schools. You are expanding Marxist schools by putting more schools under the Marxist system of funding. If you are embracing government collecting taxes and then using those taxes to pay for private education, then you aren’t getting kids out of the system—you are putting more of them into it.

Right now, about 10 percent of students are not in government-funded K–12 institutions. Universal taxpayer-funded school vouchers will drive that number down. So, 10 percent of America is showing that you don’t need the government to receive an education. Imagine that universal school choice is enacted, and now that number is less than 1 percent. These students grow up and become voters. They will vote for UBI, single-payer health care, and a host of other welfare programs because they were educated through welfare. This policy normalized welfare for 99 percent of the population. Those students will not grow up and vote for conservatives.

We’ve established that universal taxpayer-funded school vouchers will create dependency. We are seeing prices rising in Arizona, and we’ve seen the cost of college skyrocket, and now student debt is out of control. Inflation resulting from “free money” should be no surprise to us. Next, let me establish government control.

Good governance requires oversight. Oversight requires money and power. As taxpayers and conservatives, we should want good oversight of how our taxes are being used. These vouchers literally open the door to your home to the government. You might say that the government wouldn’t do that, but it already does in states with more limited vouchers. The laws may be initially passed with limited or no controls, but that will quickly change once the families are dependent on the money and have altered their lifestyle around the expectation of those funds. The control strings are being attached, and the recipient won’t realize what they’ve done until it is too late.

Ultimately, taxpayer-funded school vouchers will normalize welfare for everyone, creating a society dependent on the government. This will make it very difficult for conservatives to win elections. Prices will rise, and so more welfare will need to be doled out. Now the voters will depend on an expanding government instead of limiting it. In the name and practice of good governance, more and more control will be put on the funding. In the end, the government will have expanded its control over the people.

The good news is we have true school choice in all fifty states. 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 money in their own pockets, and encourage local private and direct investment in education. That is a winning message, not just today but for our future. The kids are depending on you, and they are worth it.

Robert Bortins is the CEO of Classical Conversations, Inc., a homeschool program that helps parents cultivate an inquisitive, intellectual child through an intentional, community-based approach. Robert earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from Clemson University in 2006. After graduating, he worked as a management trainee for UPS and as a plant engineer for Easy Gardener. In 2011, he returned to the family business, Classical Conversations, Inc., to develop a marketing program. He was then appointed CEO of the family-owned company in 2012. He and his wife have three children and live in North Carolina.