(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb provided an insightful summary of the choice debate overall while commenting on the ESA expansion fight here in the Cactus Patch, but with broad applicability:
….the debate about vouchers isn’t really about money. The argument that vouchers drain district schools of resources has always been a diversion.
Instead, the debate is rooted in different views of the role of government in educating children.
The government, through the coercive power of taxation, establishes a central pool of resources for the education of students.
Voucher supporters believe that the pool should be used to provide the best educational opportunity for each child as determined by their parents. A proportionate share of the common pool should be available irrespective of whether that choice is a district, charter or private school. The focus should be on what is best for each child individually.
Voucher opponents believe that some children should be used by the government as sociological chess pieces. Their access to the common pool should be limited to the schools voucher opponents believe they should be attending, even if their parents believe it is suboptimal.
As Morpheus put it “What is the Matrix? Control.”
In other words, some people view children primarily as funding units for a system that employs a large number of adults. The other side views students as human beings with a huge diversity of needs and aspirations, a large number of which will not be met in a 19th Century Prussian factory model of service provision with a monopoly on the common pool funds. We have very helpfully moved away from this in Arizona, but each new step seems to elicit a fresh burst of misguided outrage. Robb used the term chess pieces, I prefer “funding units” but “copper tops” might be the most apt term: