A Bad Case of School Voucher Fever COMMUNITY COMMENT

Article excerpt

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana has a bad case of school voucher fever right now. Many sensible people have embraced the idea of vouchers as a cure-all for what ails education in Indiana and the United States. Those folks managed to ram the most sweeping voucher law in the country through the Indiana General Assembly last year. The Indiana Supreme Court soon will rule on the Indiana State Teachers Association's challenge to the law, but that hasn't slowed the spread of the delirium.

Advocates for vouchers speak of "education reform" - their chosen euphemism - in the same tones that pre-adolescent girls talk about Justin Bieber.

I halfway hope that the Indiana Supreme Court will uphold the voucher law. That may be the only way to break the fever.

More on that in a moment.

First, let's talked about what caused this outbreak.

Voucher advocates say that giving parents choices about where to send their children to school will improve education by introducing market forces - mostly, competition - into the process. Armed with tax-funded vouchers, parents will be able to shop in the education marketplace for the best choices. If government just gets out of the way, people will choose the best schools and the bad ones will fail.

Setting aside the practical difficulties of this argument - if I'm a parent who lives in Spencer and the school I want to send my child to is in Hammond, how do I get him or her there every day? Let's focus on the philosophic premise here.

That premise is that things will get easier for individuals if they are allowed to fend in the marketplace for themselves without government intervention.

That would have been a fascinating notion for the people who lived a century ago. Those folks, our ancestors, knew what an unchecked market could do to individuals - pretty much what the slaughterhouse did to cattle.

The market, for example, not only allowed for but demanded that children work 14-hour days in factories. The market thought nothing of firing people without pay for being injured on the job - destroying families in the process. And the market didn't blink at the notion of shooting strikers for demanding better wages.

That is why people turned to government to shelter them from the worst excesses of market forces, because a free market - by definition - won't restrain itself. …