Home > Uncategorized > Vouchers Mean Less Local Control Over Schools, Less Regulation… but Lower Property Taxes. Is the Trade-off Worth It?

Vouchers Mean Less Local Control Over Schools, Less Regulation… but Lower Property Taxes. Is the Trade-off Worth It?

Harvard Government Professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have an op ed piece in today’s paper that poses this question: Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy? Spoiler alert: their answer is a decided and well documented “Yes“.

But Professors Levitsky and Ziblatt’s analysis of Mr. Trump’s corrosive impact on democracy overlooks one crucial element of Mr. Trump’s threat: his desire to privatize as many government functions as possible. Mr. Trump’s nomination of voucher advocate Betsy DeVos to Secretary of Education is a case in point. An avid proponent of replacing “government schools”, Ms. DeVos has no time whatsoever for school boards at any level, for THEY are the “government” in “government schools”.  Moreover, in most communities the democratically elected Boards that govern school districts have a greater impact on property taxes than any other locally elected board. But locally elected school boards view themselves as guardians of the well-being of children and are not driven by the profit motive. Consequently these democratically elected boards tend to spend more freely than a business and, consequently, taxpayers need to pay more. This chain of events might be lost on government professors, journalists, and voters… but it is not lost on the businessmen who would love to pay lower taxes and are eager to make a profit by operating low overhead schools. In a democracy the well being of citizens is more important than the bottom line. In business, that is often not the case.

So here are some handy equations to keep in mind as we consider Ms. DeVos’ opening appointment:

More choice = less local governance

More choice = lower property taxes

More choice = business opportunities for de-regulated for-profit schools.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that more choice = better opportunities for children… OR more learning in the classrooms… OR healthier communities… OR local control over spending.

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