Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 16, 2011

AREN'T WE TOO BROKE FOR SCHOOL VOUCHERS?.... Let me get this straight. As far as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is concerned, the United States government is "broke," which means we can't afford to pay for key domestic priorities, even if we want to.

Boehner, however, is also convinced that we have federal funds lying around to pay for private school tuition.

In these dire fiscal times, when even the sacred programs are no longer sacred, Republican leaders have still been able to identify a few that they think deserve more money.

Security for congressmen is slated for a boost, after the Tucson shootings. Aid to Israel would grow. Veterans would get more money for their health care.

And then there's a little-known program, which gives money to disadvantaged District students to attend private schools, that would get an additional $2.3 million -- thanks largely to one powerful patron, House Speaker John A. Boehner.

Indeed, it's not just the $2.3 million -- the Speaker also wants U.S. taxpayers to spend $20 million for private school tuition in D.C. over the next five years.

Maybe this is just an extension of Boehner's deep and abiding passion for looking out for struggling children? I have a strong hunch that's not it. After all, the Speaker's budget plan calls for devastating cuts to Head Start, Pell grants, Title I grants (which help schools with kids who live in poverty), and nutritional aid for pregnant women and women with young children, among other things.

If Boehner were motivated solely by a desire to help children and students, these cuts would be off the table. Instead, they remain near the top of the GOP to-do list.

So what's really going on here? It's simply a matter of priorities. Boehner supports brutal spending cuts for most domestic priorities, but he loves vouchers, especially those that benefit Roman Catholic private schools and undermine public education (which his party is growing increasingly hostile towards).

In the mind of the House Speaker, if he recognizes the cognitive dissonance, he shows no signs of letting it bother him. We're broke when it comes to priorities Boehner doesn't care about, and we have money to spend on private school tuition because it's something Boehner does care about.

One could presumably ask Boehner if he'd be willing to invest that $20 million in helping all kids, not just those accepted into D.C. private Catholic academies, but I have a hunch he wouldn't go for it. The Speaker's notion of "sacrifice" is surprisingly limited.

And I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention that officials in D.C., elected by the residents of D.C., don't want vouchers, and would be far happier to see Congress invest that money elsewhere. For that matter, when vouchers have been tried in the city, the promises made by voucher proponents -- including improved test scores -- never materialized.

Boehner doesn't care, but maybe he should.

Update: And for good measure, a reader reminds me this morning that the Speaker has time to fight for vouchers, but still can't bother to work on job creation.

Steve Benen 9:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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both political parties are NOT so much about the best interests of the country as they are about the best interests of the party. don't pretend to be incredulous about this, it makes you seem patronizing.

Posted by: Chris Echo on March 16, 2011 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe we should TAX churches- that would raise plenty of money to fund Boner's parochial schools. Y'know; robbing Peter to pay Paul. . .

Posted by: DAY on March 16, 2011 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Everybody knows that students who attend private schools receive better educations. And those of us who were lucky enough to be home schooled are the best educated of all.

Posted by: Al on March 16, 2011 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

I think that's a great idea.

Churches can remain tax exempt as long as they stay out of politics and government.
Any church that want to get involved in those can be warned once.
But from then on, bye-buy tax breaks!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 16, 2011 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

No, those of us who were schooled at Disneyland were the BEST schooled of ALL! Because we know how to clap louder, CLAP LOUDER!

BTW, as to job creation, why does anybody think Boehner is interested in job creation? Of course he occasionally says it, but it's pretty seldom and obviously a throwaway line. Republicans do NOT want job creation, because (1) it would be good for Obama's re-election prospects, and (2) it would tighten the labor market which would be bad for their corporate masters. (Also (3) generally it might inflate the economy a bit, which is also bad for their masters; financiers don't like inflation.)

Posted by: bleh on March 16, 2011 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

This is how I see the future of education if the Repubs get their way (and they always get their way).

Slowly but surely they will dismantle public education, replacing it with some kind of voucher system.

Then slowly but surely the money for the vouchers will disappear (I am sure with a lot of screaming about "people taking advantage of the voucher system" and "why should my tax money ...", etc., etc.).

And then the poor and lower middle class will simply not be able to afford to send their children to school.


Posted by: Dan on March 16, 2011 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Amamzing isn't it, that when we had the highest tax rates in this countries history, from the '30's to the early '80's, we had a public education system, from K-BS or BA, that was the envy of the world.
Not to mention everything else we did.

Now, that are taxes are much, much, lower, our education system has been getting worse.
The lesson learned? Cut taxes and privatize education.

I guess the term 'causal relationship' is too sciency for Conservatives.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 16, 2011 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

For a stellar example of an education system composed exclusively of religious schools, admiringly regard Ireland, where well before puberty the kids already hate the "other." Let's segregate by eye color while were at it.

Posted by: Keeping Track on March 16, 2011 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Its all a plan to defund all public schools, and then pull the rug(vouchers) out of under from non privleged familes. Whala! a lovely peasant class that can't raise trouble (ignoring the pitchforks and torches and guns they love).
Because we know that the private world has sooooo much less corruption cough banksters cough than the public sector.

Posted by: fuzed on March 16, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats complain that republicans don't like poor people. They are wrong. Republicans love poor people; that's why they're trying so hard to create more of them. Got to find a way to keep landscaping costs down if we're going to expel all the undocumented aliens.

Posted by: wordtypist on March 16, 2011 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

I remember when this was pushed through in the early 2000s; it was tied to an increase in the public school budget for DC. It was a transparent attempt to tie vouchers to increased school performance as a showpiece for the rest of the country. IIRC, it crashed and burned as the voucher students didn't do as well as the public school kids.

Posted by: BLambert on March 16, 2011 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Why aren't there more comparative discussions of health care and education policy? Parents are mandated to send their kids to school. We currently have a dual system with private schools and public schools. This, it would seem to me, is analogous to the British health system with private doctors and the NHS.

Vouchers, on the other hand, want to have schools paid for via public money but provided by private practitioners. This would seem to be a lot like the Canadian single payer health care system, if I understand correctly.

How is mandating that everyone have health insurance and providing public monies for those who can't afford it Stalinism, but mandating that everyone have their children in school and providing public monies for those who can't afford it the essence of liberty-loving Republicanism?

I am not trying to be snarky. Am I missing something?

While we're at it, I also think the privatization of social security would also mandate individuals to purchase private goods. If ACA is deemed unconstitutional, how could social security privatization as currently espoused be possible?

Posted by: Buffalonian on March 16, 2011 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Buffalonian: Am I missing something?

If you are looking for logical consistency among Republican policies, you are not missing anything. Republican policies are logically inconsistent.

And if you are looking for civic mindedness among Republicans, a coherent governing model or concern for what is best for citizens, you aren't missing anything. Republicans are not interested in the well-being of the state.

If you are looking for evidence of the ability of Republicans to learn from experience, of scientific "cause & effect" thinking or any kind of reality-based argument, you aren't missing anything. It isn't there.

The modern Republican has been reduced to simple zombie thinking: "Cut taxes! Shrink Government!" Everything else is a post hoc rationalization. They can't even remember why they thought "cut taxes, shrink government" was a good idea in the first place, except it had something to do with Reagan and welfare Queens. Boehner's thinking on vouchers (vs being broke) can be summed up simply, "mmmmmmmmm(cut taxes, shrink government)mmmmmm."

Posted by: PTate in MN on March 16, 2011 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Ok, I'm with you all the way on the voucher issue (even more so, since Boehner's district is in my backyard, AND I'm Catholic), but really--"private Catholic academies"? Catholic schools are in the centers of every city in the country, trying to provide education to the poorest children. I agree that vouchers are not the answer to how to help them do that, but setting up Catholic schools as some kind of prep-school straw man to add a rhetorical flourish to your point is really not fair to the people who try to keep them going, who are every bit as heroic as the public school teachers in similar settings.

Posted by: Ohioan49 on March 16, 2011 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Aren't we too broke for school vouchers?

Not if you look at money spent on school vouchers as an investment in the elimination of public education!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on March 16, 2011 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Don't many reps and senators actually live in DC with their families, including school age children? Is this just a way to make sure that they can avoid sending their kids to those "mixed race" DC public schools, and do it for free?

Posted by: chi res on March 16, 2011 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

One of the wealthiest counties in Colorado--with some of the best schools--votes to provide vouchers for parents to send children to private schools.

This in a state with a billion dollar budget deficit of which a third will be addressed (by a Democratic governor) by cuts in education (but no tax increases).

Posted by: Jimo on March 16, 2011 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK



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