THE VOUCHER DEBATE & THE FAILURE OF
FEDERALLY CONTROLLED EDUCATION
By Ron Paul
I applaud the proponents of school vouchers for having the initiative to try something new that challenges the federal government's virtual monopoly on education. It's admirable to apply a market approch to schools. Forty years of Great Society federal programs have done nothing but make our public schools worse. Fifty years ago, before the federal government became so heavily involved in public education, American elementary and secondary schools--grammar and high schools--were the best in the world. Students faced a demanding curriculum of mathematics, hard sciences, geography, literature, Western civilization, spelling and grammar, Latin, and useful trades. They even learned American history, which is sadly lacking in today's schools. Teachers were respected, and they were free to enforce discipline without fear of lawsuits or being undermined by school administrators and parents.
The stark contrast between our public schools then and now shows that federal control of education has failed. Today's public schools often produce graduates who lack even basic reading and writing skills. Politically motivated multiculturism and Leftist indoctrination take the place of rigorous learning. Teacher unions fight to protect their turf and save jobs, rather than focusing on the education of our kids. Many public schools are dilapidated and dangerous, with teachers afraid of students and discipline nonexistent. Given this reality, we can hardly be surprised that parents are demanding vouchers to get their children out of a failing system. The federal bureaucrats may claim that vouchers will undermine public schools, but the truth is that federal education already has failed miserably, and competition could only improve matters.
However, the voucher debate really ignores the more important question of whether public schools should be run by the federal government or by the local school districts. The U.S, Constitution does not authorize any federal involvement in education; Article II of the Constitution grants Congress no authority to create, fund, or regulate schools at all. Therefore, under the Tenth Amendment, public education should be purely a state and local matter. This means that Congress should not be taxing you to fund a huge federal education bureaucracy that exercises dictatorial control over curriculum and standards nationwide. Those tax dollars should be left with parents and local voters, who can best decide how to allocate precious education resources. Public schools should be funded at the local level with local tax dollars, where waste is minimized and accountability is greatest. The failed federal system of public-school funding has become a bureaucratic black hole, where the majority of tax dollars never reach the classroom.
The U.S. Supreme Court, as well as Congress, should simply follow the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution allows states and local communities to decide for themselves whether to have a voucher program. It does not, however, allow the federal government to fund, regulate, or control those voucher programs. The emphasis on local control, implied in the U.S Constitution and established by State Constitutions and Statutes, is especially important when it comes to education, and it is no coincidence that our schools have declined as federal control has increased. It's time to end the forty-year Washington stranglehold on education by returning control--which means returning tax dollars--to parents and local school systems. The best immediate approach is to give parents a federal tax credit for amounts spent on education. Ultimately, however, we can only resurrect our public schools by following the U.S. Constitution and ending the federal education monopoly.
A Practical Guide to Homeschooling
Ron Paul is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the Fourteenth Congressional District of Texas.
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