THURBER: Food, housing vouchers but not education?

By   /   July 26, 2012  /   Comments Off on THURBER: Food, housing vouchers but not education?

By Maggie Thurber | Special to Ohio Watchdog

Maggie Thurber

Vouchers. The mere mention of the word puts people on edge.

Teachers unions immediately bristle. School board members immediate go on guard. Some parents rejoice, while others wonder why they can’t get one for their children.

It’s a loaded word in the education arena — and people feel strongly whenever it is mentioned.

It’s a simple concept. Instead of a state giving education funding to a school district or a school, the money goes to the child. Well, technically, it’s a document or authorization for a child’s parent or guardian to use to pay up to a certain amount of costs at a school of choice, including private or religious schools.

But because of political considerations having nothing whatsoever to do with a child’s education, many states don’t use them — or use them in only limited ways, often holding lotteries to see which lucky parent gets their tax dollars back in this form.

The opposition usually comes from the left — unions and Democrats — and this has always puzzled me.

These groups don’t have a problem with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the food stamp program, which is a voucher. In fact, they’re usually the strongest proponents of additional funding for the program. But it is a voucher system. The recipient is given a set amount of money on an electronic benefit transfer card that they can use at any number of grocery stores, farmers markets and even, in some states, fast-food restaurants.

They also don’t seem to have a problem with Medicare, which also functions like a voucher system. Enrollees can chose which doctor they want to see and their treatments are covered under certain criteria.

They’ve strongly supported Section 8 housing, which is actually called the Housing Choice Voucher Program:

“A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family’s choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family’s present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA (public housing agencies).

“A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. Under certain circumstances, if authorized by the PHA, a family may use its voucher to purchase a modest home.”

So with all this support for voucher programs, you have to wonder why education vouchers are so despised.

If people can be trusted to purchase food, health care and housing with government-provided funds from taxpayers, why can’t we do the same with parents and their choice of education for their children?

If families can find suitable housing, why can’t they find suitable schools?

Why is education the only program where vouchers can’t be used?

The hypocrisy is mind-numbing — and it’s time to hold politicians accountable for the double standard.