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 notes, H.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.