A common partisan refrain against private school parental choice programs is that private schools are elitist entities that don’t serve the poor. The reality is the opposite. A majority of American families in the highest Census Bureau income brackets actually send their children to public schools (p. 15). What’s more, private schools enrollments, faith-based private schools in particular, more closely reflect the American population in terms of students who are low-income or have special needs than traditional district public schools (p. 15).
Another closely kept secret is the hypocrisy between what elected officials publicly preach about parental choice and what they actually practice. For years The Heritage Foundation has documented that hypocrisy (see their reports from 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, and 2009). Most recently, The Heritage Foundation reported that more than one-third of the Members of Congress (38 percent) sent their children to private schools at one time or another.
Of course, President Obama and the First Lady also chose a private school for their daughters, even though the Obama Administration has relentlessly opposed the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which enables low-income, largely African-American, students in failing public schools to attend top-quality D.C.-area private schools instead (at a fraction of the cost of D.C. Public Schools). His administration has also targeted private school parental choice programs serving low-income students in Louisiana and now Wisconsin.
A compelling article by Nathan Schacht republished by EAGNew.org details the fruits of such hypocrisy from state legislators in Wisconsin—home to the country’s first publicly-funded voucher scholarship program to include private, faith-based schools:
But while the Left attacks the “pro-privatization minions” on the Right, little has been said about the fact that those who benefit from the Wisconsin GOP’s statewide expansion of the Parental Choice Program – often referred to as the school choice or voucher program – are limited to students of low income households. …
Anti-school choice liberals fail to mention that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, state Senator (and outgoing Minority Leader) Chris Larson, state Senator and Democratic Caucus Chair Kathleen Vinehout, state Rep. and former Democratic legislative aide Eric Genrich, state Rep. Evan Goyke, state Rep. Fred Kessler and state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa all had the luxury of personally attending private high schools.
Yet despite benefiting from private school themselves, these and other liberals have decided a private education should be out of reach for those who cannot afford it. Creating what can only be called education inequality for the poor.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, in the 2014-15 school year, family incomes for those who wish to apply to the school choice program must be at or below 185% of the poverty line. Yet in Wisconsin, liberals have declared war on those at 185% of the poverty line or below, declaring they should not get the same opportunities as the wealthy that can afford to pay for private education out of their own pockets.
In fact, the very income limits placed on the program make any claim that the program is for the wealthy completely ridiculous – since the wealthy do not even qualify for the school choice program.
It is interesting to note that proponents of universal government-run preschool are actively abandoning their former political strategy of limiting government-subsidized programs for the poor and focusing instead on expanding such programs for middle class families.
The reason? The middle class is a bigger political constituency, and these folks want to grow government.
Based on the mid-term election results, however, those who think the electorate has enough choices with the government schooling sector misclaculated–big time.
In the end, the parental choice debate boils down to a simple question: are children creatures of the state or not? If they’re not, then parents, not those in government, should be calling the shots. It appears that a majority of voters agree.