There’s school choice and there’s real school choice

05 May

In a speech before a school choice group in the nation’s capital Monday, Governor Christie announced his support for a bipartisan bill in the legislature that would allow corporations to receive tax credits for scholarships they provide to children in failing school districts.  Parents would be able to send their children to public or private schools with a scholarship that would be valued at about $15,000 per student.    The Governor also supports increasing the number  of charter schools in the state.

Governor Christie cited the $24,000 per student cost in Newark as an example of a failed education system, where less than 50% of high school students graduate.   He stated that a school choice program would allow a single mother in Newark to have the same “choice” as his family, namely, to send her children to an alternative public and private school instead of the local public school.  Christie’s children attend Catholic school.

But Governor Christie and his wife obviously have more education choices for their children than a single mother in Newark or for that matter a single mother in Teaneck, Bogota or any suburban community, because they have greater income than a single mother or even a most two income families in the burbs.  So it should not be surprising that the Christies or any upper income family has more choices than other families, especially when it comes to educating their children that average middle income and low income families do not have.  However, families struggle to pay private school tuition and pay all their bills and taxes so their kids could get a quality education.

These families are the unsung heroes in New Jersey and around the country–sacrificing so their kids can learn in a safe and stimulating educational environment.

The Governor, however, begged the basic question about school funding: if parents choose to send their children to a private school, why do they still have to pay for the cost of public schools?  After all, parents who send their children to public schools and pay school property taxes and state income taxes to support public education, do not pay for the cost of private education.  In short, the cost of public education is “socialized.”

To “unsocialize” public education, parents whose children attend public schools should pay tuition and fees to cover the costs of their kids’ education.  And parents who send their kids to private schools should not have to pay any taxes to fund public education, so they would have the funds to cover some, most or all of the costs of their kids’ education.

This is real school choice.  Parents paying directly for the education of their children whether it is a “public” school or a private school.  Currently, public schools are highly subsidized by parents of nonpublic school kids, individuals and families who are childless and by the business community.

Let’s level the education playing field.  No taxpayer subsidies for education.  The best schools and the best teachers would rise to the top throughout the state, in the suburbs and in the urban centers.   Funding for all schools would be made voluntarily.  And when real school choice is implemented, education would no longer be the political football it has become.

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