(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
I’ve gotten quite a bit of reaction from yesterday’s post over email. Most of it has been supportive, but some not so much-at least not yet (I haven’t given up hope on you). Some mistook the post yesterday for an assertion that equity issues are not important in private choice programs. On the contrary, they are incredibly important. My assertion is only that means testing is a self-defeating and blunt instrument in pursuit of equity. I think we can do better.
For those of you holding to a belief that means-testing is a superior strategy to varied funding amounts, please reflect upon the following questions:
1. Why should private choice programs stand as the only education option that sets out to exclude children on the basis of their parents making too much income (or is it paying too many taxes?)
2. If you support a public school system that routinely spends more money on schools in high-income areas, why would you oppose a private choice program that gives more money to low-income students?
3. If means-testing is a great idea, why haven’t you proposed applying it to district and charter schools?
Jay very helpfully added a fourth question in the comments:
4. How do you expect to win politically when you exclude as beneficiaries a majority of people, including the most politically powerful families as beneficiaries?
Let me note from the outset that I am making reference to a formula funded choice program like NVESA. I serve on the board of a scholarship tax credit organization that is proud to focus on children that qualify for a free or reduced lunch. This makes sense because of limited funds, and we want to focus those limited funds on children with the greatest need.
In a formula funded program like NVESA, scarcity of funds is not an issue. In essence, what is the case for applying a series of double standards to private school choice? I’ll hang up and listen.