Don’t Confuse School Choice with Educational Freedom

by | Dec 5, 2022

While school choice isn’t the ideal, it isn’t a compromise to supports such policies.

Both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have said that “school choice”—i.e., vouchers or education savings plans—will be a priority in the 2023 legislative session.

Advocates of “school choice” programs scored victories across the nation during the midterm elections. Every gubernatorial candidate who supports school choice was elected. Some, such as The Washington Examiner call this a victory for educational freedom. However, school choice and educational freedom are two very different things.

Certainly, school choice programs return a little freedom to parents. Such programs allow parents to choose which school their children attend, whether government, charter, or private, rather than being limited to the local government school. Despite this being a good thing, it is not educational freedom.

Freedom means an absence of government coercion. School choice programs are filled with coercion. The most obvious example is the fact that such programs are funded by tax dollars—money that is coercively taken from taxpayers. As another example, most programs include rules and restrictions on how parents can use the money. And, if school choice is enacted in Texas, many want to regulate any private schools that accept vouchers or education savings plans.

Educational freedom requires all coercive measures to be abolished. It means that tax dollars would not be collected or used for educational purposes. All taxpayers, including parents, should be free to spend their money as they deem best, whether that is for educational purposes or anything else. With tax dollars eliminated from the equation, the strings that are attached to their use would evaporate.

School choice programs are a step in the right direction. But many more steps are required to actually attain educational freedom. While school choice isn’t the ideal, it isn’t a compromise to supports such policies. At any given time, there is a range of policies that are politically acceptable—i.e., the Overton Window. Some of those policies move us closer to freedom, while others move us away from freedom. Today, school choice is politically acceptable; abolishing government schools is not.

We should support school choice, but we must not confuse it with educational freedom.

FEEL FREE TO SHARE
Brian Phillips is the founder of the Texas Institute for Property Rights. Brian has been defending property rights for nearly thirty years. He played a key role in defeating zoning in Houston, Texas, and in Hobbs, New Mexico. He is the author of three books: Individual Rights and Government Wrongs, The Innovator Versus the Collective, and Principles and Property Rights. Visit his website at texasipr.com.

Related articles

Voice of Capitalism

Our weekly email newsletter.