Rep. King: Convert All Federal Education Funding to Block Grants Pushing Vouchers

Senator Mike Rounds said South Dakotans don’t have to worry about his constituent-defying vote to confirm the President’s dangerously unqualified Education Secretary because her signature plan, vouchers for private schools, isn’t in effect in South Dakota.

But if Rounds’s Republican neighbor in the House (and good Iowa pal of new SDGOP chair Dan Lederman) Rep. Steve King has his way, South Dakota won’t get any federal education money unless it does implement vouchers.

As eager reader Joe Nelson notesH.R.610, the Choices in Education Act, would repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, establish a federal education voucher program to give money to parents of private school students and home-schoolers, and limit Education Department funding to block grants to states that comply with the voucher program.

In other words, under Rep. King’s proposal, South Dakota wouldn’t get any of its $295M share ($174M for K-12, $107M for post-sec, $12M for adult ed… and then we could talk about $336M in student loans) of the federal Department of Education’s $68B budget unless it implemented the vouchers Betsy DeVos has campaigned for but which Senator Rounds says won’t work in South Dakota.

Heck, at that point, Senator Rounds might as well vote for H.R.899, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie’s proposal, which terminates the Department of Education at the end of 2018. Candidate Mike Rounds said in 2014 that he supported that laughable and budgetarily suicidal idea; Senator Rounds has introduced no legislation to that effect himself.

Joe Nelson, a home-school dad himself, notes that the Home School Legal Defense Association opposes Rep. King’s voucher plan:

HSLDA opposes H.R. 610 for reasons of prudence and principle.

Once homeschools become publicly funded by the federal government, more scrutiny and more control are likely to follow. After all, homeschooling families will be spending government money, and the Congress has a responsibility to guard the public fisc.

On principle, homeschooling has succeeded as a movement in part by being different. Unlike typical constituencies asking for our piece of the public-money pie, we have simply asked the federal government to leave us alone. This has fostered one of the most dynamic social movements of our lifetime.

The spirit of self-government at the heart of private homeschooling has led to a vibrant social network of small groups and statewide groups who depend on each other—not on the government. The homeschool movement has been a better idea because we built it ourselves.

Routinely taking federal tax dollars will enervate the movement, lead to more squabbles between families and the state, and will result in more scrutiny, oversight, and control.

Thank you for standing with us for liberty as together, we fight to keep homeschooling free [William A. Estrada, “4 Ways That HR 610 Will Threaten Your Rights,” Home School Legal Defense Association, 2017.02.14].

I agree with HSLDA and apply their critique to private schools as well: alternatives to public education should remain separate from public dollars and public control. Private schools and home schools cannot get public dollars unless they play by public rules. Vouchers for any private education are a bad idea, whether in the weaselly fashion implemented via insurance company scholarships in South Dakota or the full-frontal attack on public education represented by Steve King and Betsy DeVos.

13 Responses to Rep. King: Convert All Federal Education Funding to Block Grants Pushing Vouchers

  1. bearcreekbat

    How would a voucher program work for home schoolers? For private schools the voucher likely would be based on reimbursing, or paying for up front, the cost of the tuition. There is no such tuition cost for home schoolers. And if home schoolers could use vouchers for non-tuition educational expenses, then why shouldn’t parents who choose public schools be afforded an equal right to a voucher for non-tuition educational expenses?

  2. Good point, Bear! If homeschool parents get money for buying books for their kids, why can’t I get a subsidy for my visit to the Barnes & Noble kids’ section?

    The oversight necessary to ensure proper educational use of voucher dollars is why HSLDA is against King’s bill. I will gladly stoke homeschoolers’ resistance to that oversight. I want homeschoolers to have their freedom from government intrusion. The price of that freedom is no public funding.

  3. mike from iowa

    Cantaloupe Calves Kingbat wants to replace gosh darn federal over reach with even more gosh darn federal over reach?

    Sounds like something a completely clueless wingnut would come up with.

  4. Does this mean that public schools could begin to charge for student attendance? Who sets that rate?

  5. Roger Elgersma

    Again, Rounds talks without thinking.

  6. how much did slick Mike get from her campaign fund.

  7. Porter Lansing

    In South Dakota private schools means Catholic schools. Who believes Catholic school parents don’t want vouchers to help pay their tuition? And who believes these parents won’t convey their demands to Catholic legialators?

  8. Donald Pay

    I think King puts out these ideas because he knows 99 percent of the people he’s appealing to don’t have a clue about much of anything. This bill is about as real as “repeal and replace.” It isn’t going to happen, but he throws it out there to ingratiate himself with the dumb crowd.

    Far more likely is that they will siphon some money out of public education to “pilot” a few voucher programs. It sounds moderate, but, after 20 years of abject failure in Wisconsin, it’s just throwing money down a rat hole to curry favor with rich parochial school parents. I expect Rounds will fall right in line.

  9. O, one would think that allowing public schools to charge tuition would only be fair so they could compete with the private outfits who would get public dollars but keep charging money to boost their profits. Of course, that would also be utterly unconscionable toward the vast majority of families who depend on public education.

  10. Hey Senator Mike, if Your friends in Congress wish to allow private schools to receive and use federal funding, does this mean these schools will be mandated to accept and educate ALL students regardless of any physical or mental disability? It would seem that this would be required of any school receiving federal monies. Agree?

  11. Mr. Mike from Iowa:

    I appreciate your providing the article; however, like many who wish to discuss this issue, the shotgun approach misses the target of the argument. The addressing of the “cherrypicking” of students does not address the issue. I have little problem with private schools receiving federal monies for educating our nation’s young persons; however, they should also be required to educate those with “special needs”: those with physical disorders and in need of special attention in the schools, special needs due to mental disorders, hearing disorders which require special attention, and disabilities which affect a significant number of students for which our public schools are required, by law, to address. This should also be required of the private schools if the private schools wish to receive public funding. This would only be equitable. Would you have a problem with this? To qualify for public funding, all schools would be required to educate ALL students in need of an education. The federal requirements must be met by ALL schools. To receive public funds, all schools must be required to follow the same requirements. Wouldn’t you agree?