Jay Mathews Comes Back for More

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

True story: At the house of some friends from church, the elder son (about six years old) was explaining the big bandage he was wearing. He told us he had climbed up on the stove in order to reach the cookies that were on top of the refrigerator, accidentally turned on the range with his foot, fell over, and was badly burned.

The following exchange occurred:

ME: Did you learn a lesson from what happened?

HIM: Uh . . . no.

Apparently Jay Mathews didn’t learn anything either after getting badly burned on the stove of my wrath last year.

He’s once again up to his typical stove-climbing antics, still trying to reach the cookies of bipartisan acceptability on top of the refrigerator of political ambiguity. Over the weekend, he wrote:

Instead, the two parties pound each other with an education issue that makes them look tough to their most partisan supporters. That convenient weapon is vouchers, tax-supported scholarships for students who want to attend private schools. Obama has cut funds for a voucher program in the District, so Romney embraces it. “It will be a model for parental choice programs across the nation,” he said in the speech.

The split doesn’t affect the bipartisan approach to schools much because vouchers have no chance of ever expanding very far. There aren’t nearly enough available spaces in good private schools to meet the demand. Any significant growth in vouchers would lead to heavy government interference in private schools and kill any allegiance conservative Republicans had to it.

Let’s take these claims one by one:

vouchers have no chance of ever expanding very far

Uh, yeah, let me just go ahead and link this again. Thanks. If Mathews wants to lose another bet on vouchers’ legislative prospects, he’s welcome to as much pain as he wants.

He links that statement to an older article of his on the DC voucher program, which serves under 2,000 kids. Compare that to the gargantuan sizes of the new Indiana and Louisiana programs (400,000 kids eligible in Louisiana!).

I’m not saying we’ve reached the promised land, but the political trend is very obviously up and not down.

There aren’t nearly enough available spaces in good private schools to meet the demand.

William F. Buckley once asked, speaking about a person whose name escapes me: “What do you think he would do if the devil removed the blinders from his eyes and showed him the world of economics? I say the devil, because God would never be so cruel.”

What do you think Jay Mathews would do if the devil removed the blinders from his eyes and showed him that quantity supplied can change in response to demand?

Any significant growth in vouchers would lead to heavy government interference in private schools and kill any allegiance conservative Republicans had to it.

Yeah, except for the part where there are now 34 school choice programs serving 212,000 students, and this story Mathews is telling hasn’t happened anywhere.

Keep reaching for those cookies, Jay. You’ll get them someday.

(Edit: In the first version of this post, the devil made me write the wrong name in the WFB quote above.)

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9 Responses to Jay Mathews Comes Back for More

  1. Zeev Wurman says:

    Jay Mathews as the cookie monster? Nah …

  2. matthewladner says:

    Perhaps you’ll have to have him take you to the world’s only seven star steakhouse in Dubai next time to cure him of this shallow cynicism.

  3. George Mitchell says:

    The observation that “there aren’t nearly enough available spaces in good private schools to meet the demand” is right up there with Arne Duncan saying that school choice will only help a few students. And then there are those who say choice is a marginal issue because the majority of students “always will attend public schools.”

  4. Daniel Earley says:

    With regard to “heavy government interference,” what Mathews is also failing to recognize could perhaps simply be called Democratic Republics 101. As the number of parents who use vouchers rises, a growing voting constituency rises, and — viola — an automatic check against excessive government interference is born. Oh, but that requires a lot of parents, even from the middle class! Yes indeed. Ahem…

  5. Burned child? Matthews sounds more like Baghdad Bob, denying the allied invasion as US tanks demolished the neighborhood around him. Why do people voluntarily discredit their voices so?
    One objection to vouchers makes sense: the State cannot subsidize education without a definition of “education”. The requirement that vouchers support schools implies an official definition of “school. This invites State intrusion into the operation of independent and parochial schools. Mr. Earley makes a good point about the voting power of voucher-receiving parents. Public choice theory suggests that the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel will remain influential until the cartel’s schools comprise a distinct minority of the education market.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Would a failure to provide any education for a child be punishable under the child neglect laws? If so, government is already implicated in defining what’s a school.

  6. (Greg): “Would a failure to provide any education for a child be punishable under the child neglect laws? If so, government is already implicated in defining what’s a school.

    True. Laws for thee and not for me. As usual.

    Most policies that enhance parent control over education will generate improvements over the current State-monopoly system. Different policies create different risks and benefits. I prefer Parent Performance Contracting, but I’ll settle for tuition tax credits, vouchers, charter schools, or credit by exam for all courses required for graduation.

  7. [...] is mentioned. He says that, “…vouchers have no chance of ever expanding very far.” However, Greg Forster, senior fellow with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, has debunked Mathews’ claim [...]

  8. [...] is mentioned. He says that, “…vouchers have no chance of ever expanding very far.” However, Greg Forster, senior fellow with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, has debunked Mathews’ claim [...]

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