The Unhidden Front Door to State Overreach: School Vouchers

When you spend the day getting called “very wise” by State agents, hated by anarchists, and agreeing with the Teachers’ Union, you start to question yourself. Then you realize that that’s an ad hominem and all the best anarchists are ill received in their own communities for not being statist enough. 

The public hearing for SB 193, which entangles public, private, and home schooling by expanding State funding, was yesterday. SB 193 titles itself “Education Freedom Savings Accounts” and if that’s what it was I would support it. The title of the bill gives the impression that it involves tax deductions for those who make deposits to an account earmarked for their child’s education expenses. In reality the bill gives grants, *currently*  $3600 per child to families that homeschool or use private schools. The bill also continues to give most of the previously available funding to the public school system. Proponents of the bill argue that funding three systems instead of the current one will not increase government spending.

Statists gonna State, but I expect members of my own community to recognize a combination power grab/welfare program when they see one. Actually, with few exceptions, no I don’t, but you get the point. I still exponentially prefer living in New Hampshire to anywhere else on earth, and usually it’s a good time, but I know that I can not always expect those who label themselves anarchists, voluntaryists, and libertarians to act like it. This bill is being lauded in my community as a “school choice bill.” But as of today in New Hampshire parents already have all those choices- private school is legal, and homeschool is both legal and unregulated. What this bill does is subsidize those choices. I have yet to get a response as to how subsidizing private and homeschool is anymore “school choice” than food stamps is “food choice,” Section 8 is “housing choice,” and grants and other subsidization to oil companies is “drilling choice.” When you invite the State, or anyone else for that matter, to fund your choices you invite control into your life. And if you are reading this from land occupied by the US then you have already seen what subsidization has done to the college system.

SB 193, and any other school voucher program, is not a refund of taxes paid. Vouchers are not based on taxes paid; they are based on number of children had, much like most personal welfare programs. There is no logical reason to support school vouchers if you oppose all other welfare. It could be said of any welfare program that some of the recipients have paid taxes and are getting their own money back (and like all welfare programs, some have not); there is nothing magical about school vouchers. I believe that there are philosophical arguments to be made that either all State property is ownerless and therefore homestead-able, or at least net tax victims are not thieves as they are appropriating from their aggressor what they are owed. (Though I think that voluntarily calling up the State to tell them to fund and make subject to audit your homeschool program is wildly negligent.There are also both strategic and moral concerns with being a program recipient.) But the question on the table isn’t whether personal or corporate welfare recipients are violating the NAP. We both drove here on the roads. If you are supporting a bill that creates or expands a welfare program, then the question is whether creating or expanding welfare programs violates the NAP. Handing power to the largest, most violent, and most heavily armed gang in the history of humans is most definitely a NAP violation.

This is a welfare program, but unlike most welfare programs it does not have the excuse of helping those in need. Even if you are a person that defines the State handing you things as “choice” this program does not give choices to those that do not already possess them. The grant amount is the amount of the State determined adequacy amount per pupil, and so the grant is currently  $3600. In order to benefit from this grant, parents have to either be able to afford for one parent to stay home full-time to homeschool, or be able to afford the difference between between the grant and private school tuition. Otherwise their child simply stays in the current public school system.The average private elementary tuition in New Hampshire is $8,621, and the median is $7,200. The average private high school tuition in New Hampshire is $29,576, and the median $14,550.There are only 4 high schools and 5 elementary schools located in the entire State with tuition below the grant level. Of course, the private schools will also benefit as they will be aware that their customers have access to these additional funds. In the future, the State will face the convenient choice of maintaining a subsidy program solely for the well-off or expanding its own power and substantially increasing the voucher amount.

Voucher programs are one more thing for the State to exercise control over. In this particular case, there is a weird middle man that preforms ministerial duties, but ultimately State programs are managed by the State. It should be self-evident not only to anarchists, but to humans, that giving the State a program to manage and fund gives power to the State. This is a near tautological proposition. It is also ridiculously foreseeable that the State and its supporters will use the excuse that something is funded by stolen money to demand even more power. The day after this bill passed the house, people were complaining that homeschool is unregulated and private school is not regulated enough to their liking.

In the past I have referred to programs that set the State up to obtain more power in the future as backdoors to power/regulation/etc. However, in this case, I believe we have arrived at the point where it is a front door. When I was testifying against this bill to the finance committee, the head of the committee said that I was “very wise” to fear regulations on home and private schools once they are funded by the State. I honestly do not know if I should take this as a compliment or a threat. The State did not even wait until the next legislative session after offering money to introduce regulations. SB 1263 is up for public hearing next week. State agents Edith Tucker, Larry Laflamme, Yvonne Thomas, and Robert Theberge who sponsored SB 1263 have not commented on the bill after being contacted on November 9th with the following questions:

  • Will this legislation return the pre-2012 requirements?
  • What requirements do you intend for this legislation to place on homeschooling families?
  • What, if any, ways does this legislation do to ensure that homeschool children who are educated but follow different curriculums from the public school are not penalized?
  • How do you intend to ensure that this legislation is compliant with Pierce v Society of Sisters 268 US 510 and its progeny?
  • Does this legislation put higher standards on homeschooling parents than on public schools? Are there any levels of failure on standardized tests at which public schools are forced to disband? Are there any levels of failure on standardized tests by the students at which public school teachers are forced to leave the field?

SB 1263 creates penalties for failure to maintain a portfolio of a homeschool child’s work and for failing (or failing to take) standardized tests. Currently there are no penalties for public schools who’s students do not achieve passing grades on tests, but this bill would allow the State to force a homeschooled child into public school if they do not achieve satisfactory grades. Children have different goals and different abilities, which is the purpose of homeschool in the first place, and so it make sense that they will pursue different curriculums. Even public school teachers will admit that different children excel in different areas. It is not particularly sane to test someone for one curriculum when they are pursuing another. And I’m not entirely sure why a State agent would want me and my child in their school.

 

 

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