On School Vouchers vs. Tax Credits

August 2, 2020 Updated: August 14, 2020

Dear Editor,

I have enjoyed Alex Newman’s excellent series examining education in the United States, but I have to take exception to his claim, in “Historic Crossroads for Private Education: Boom or Bust?” that tax credits, rather than vouchers, are the best way to expand parental choice in education.

Newman and other advocates of tuition tax credits say the funding made available for paying tuition by tax credits is not “public funding,” and therefore schools that receive the money should not be subject to increased government regulation. But state governments are free to regulate private schools heavily regardless of whether there is such a cash nexus, and many do.
Voucher programs can be designed to specifically prohibit additional regulation of participating schools and can even deregulate all private schools. Indiana’s voucher program is a good example. Supreme Court decisions provide the same high level of protection of the autonomy of religious schools that receive vouchers as tax credits recently received in the Espinoza case.
The biggest difference between tax credits and vouchers is that the latter can benefit many more students and families because it does not rely on the charity of a few to educate the nation’s children. Vouchers actually defund the public education system, allowing current tax dollars to follow students to the schools their parents choose, whereas tax credits leave the public system’s funding largely undisturbed.
School choice advocates like me endorse both tax credits and vouchers. Only by working together can we rescue all the children.

Sincerely,

Joseph L. Bast
Sherwood, Wisconsin
N.B. I was co-author with Dr. Herbert Walberg of Education and Capitalism (Hoover Institution, 2003) and Rewards (Heartland Institute, 2014). From 1984 to 2017 I served as president of The Heartland Institute, where I am now a senior fellow. My complete bio is available here:  https://www.heartland.org/about-us/who-we-are/joseph-bast

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.