Fund Students Instead of Systems

Sen. Rand Paul wants to help families find a route around the public school monopoly.


Families need education options now more than ever. Education Week just reported that 85 percent of the largest 20 school districts in the U.S. aren't beginning the school year with any in-person instruction. According to the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, most of the nation's 120 largest school districts intend to begin the school year without any in-person instruction.

So it's welcome news that Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) is introducing a bill to redirect federal K–12 education dollars to fund families directly. This would be a great step toward putting the needs of kids and parents before the needs of the public school monopoly.

Remote learning was a disaster for too many families this spring. A recent analysis found that only 1 in 3 school districts even required teachers to deliver instruction. And even if remote learning performs well in certain areas, the reality remains that families have structured their lives around the fact that in-person schooling lets parents go to work and earn a living.

A coalition of at least 10 teachers unions partnered with the Democratic Socialists of America and other groups to put together a "National Day of Resistance" last week to "Demand Safe Schools." Some unions protested reopening schools with fake tombstones, obituaries, coffins, and body bags. Their demands also included several items not obviously related to COVID-19, including a ban on new charter schools, a ban on new private school choice programs, a ban on standardized testing, police-free schools, and a "massive infusion of federal money." 

These protests come in stark contrast to responses from private schools and other sectors of the economy. While private businesses are fighting to reopen, many public school systems are fighting to remain closed. The incentives are different because one of these sectors gets your money regardless of whether they reopen.

If a Walmart stays closed, you can take your money elsewhere. If a public school doesn't reopen, you should similarly be able to take your children's education dollars elsewhere. In fact, even if your school does reopen, you should still be able to take your children's education dollars elsewhere, because the money is for educating the child, not protecting a government monopoly.

That's where the Support Children Having Open Opportunities for Learning (SCHOOL) Act comes in.

The SCHOOL Act, which Sen. Paul introduced on Wednesday, would allow a large portion of existing federal education dollars to follow students to wherever they received an education—be it in a public school, a private school, or a homeschooling option. This is how several other tax-funded initiates work, from Pell Grants to pre-K programs to food stamps. Although federal revenues account for only about eight percent of total K–12 education funding, the SCHOOL Act would provide substantially more dollars directly to families each year than the School Choice Now Act that was just introduced by Sens. Tim Scott (R–S.C.) and Lamar Alexander (R–Tenn.) two weeks ago.

The Act also includes a provision that prohibits additional federal or state control over non-public providers of education. And no family would be compelled to accept the money.

Some commentators have expressed concern about the possibility that certain families might waste the money on things that aren't related to education. But it would be hard to waste more money than the public school system itself. The reality is that families are generally more likely to have the information and incentives necessary to spend money in ways that will benefit their children than bureaucrats sitting in offices hundreds of miles away. 

That said, this legislation—and related education savings accounts programs across the country—would require that the dollars be used toward approved education expenses, such as private school tuition, online learning, textbooks, curriculum, and private tutoring.

When I interviewed the senator on Thursday, he said that he would like to add his proposal as an amendment to the next federal coronavirus bill, but that these types of amendments do not happen often. Either way, his team would keep the SCHOOL Act as a free-standing bill as well.

Funding institutions rather than students leaves families powerless. This bill offers an opportunity to remedy that.

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  1. It’s a start, and not a HEAD START, so that’s good.

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  2. One of Milton Friedman’s fundamental principles. If you’re going to subsidize, you must subsidize the consumer, and never the producer.

    If you subsidize the consumer, you preserve competition, innovation, and focus on keeping the consumer happy to win their money.

    If you subsidize the producer, you get bloat, inefficiency, contempt for the consumer, and a slavish devotion to the entity feeding the subsidy dollars.

    1. Part of the problem with most subsidies is that they must first flow through the greedy paws of government. Since there is more opportunity for graft when politicians direct the subsidy the producer it is almost inevitable that they will be the ones on the receiving end.

      One way to minimize, if not eliminate this effect is to provide the subsidy as a direct tax break to those will school age children. And not as a deduction, but as a straight credit to any amount owed, preferably through direct and immediate reduction of payroll tax collection.

      Yes, some people will still not have income sufficient to purchase schooling for their children. Ideally that is where charity comes in, but if we are going to tax others to provide for them then that is where the subsidy must go directly to the consumer – send them vouchers.

      1. I would gladly donate a few hundred dollars per year to charities that provide school and school supplies to needy families.

        I would save thousands per year on property taxes for education, so a few hundred would be a cheaper alternative.

        1. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new…DSr after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

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      2. If it’s framed as a tax break for those with kids who choose not to use the public schools, then shouldn’t the same break be given to those without children who are also not using those schools?

        One way to sell this publicly that could get interesting would be to point out that it’s much closer to what all of the “Scandinavian” countries (the ones that the DSA pretend they want to emulate) are doing. For what it’s worth, such a claim has the advantage of being true (although that doesn’t seem to carry much weight with the MSM in the U.S. these days).

      3. Every child has a SSN. Local and federal dollars could follow the child to whatever school she goes to. The school uses the # to bill for the money.
        Trump just needs to get both houses of Congress to get this passed!
        Problem solved. Man I’m smart.

    2. This is fair but consider what happens when we do subsidize the consumer- c.f. College Tuition. Once the customer loses price sensitivity, you have price inflation.

      Not saying there are many other prefered alternatives- just saying that it isn’t a panacea either.

  3. ‘when politicians direct the subsidy at the producer’

  4. Trump has also been saying this since he ran in 2016.

    One of the best things to come out of the Lefties trying to Kungflu hysteria America is overwhelming support for school choice.

    Lefties just have all their stupid plans blow up in their faces.

    1. Weren’t you one of those saying that what Trump “says” is immaterial. Only pay attention to what he “does”.

      What has he done for this?

  5. >>introducing a bill to redirect federal K–12 education dollars to fund families directly.

    does it repeal the 16th?

  6. Good for Rand.

  7. Fucking useless worst of all worlds approach. Eliminate education at the local level – so you can open it up for federal level cronyism.

    There is no such thing as ‘funding students’. There is ONLY funding schools.

    1. Federal has been funding schools for years…. And your certainly right; Federal has NO Constitutional authority to be doing it.

  8. One time I was talking with this liberal lady about school choice and I was rather surprised that she was for it. Until she found out what it meant. She thought it meant free abortions in public schools because, you know, choice means abortion right?

  9. All schooling should be private. Problem solved.

    1. ^PERFECT… And all those crying compulsive robbers of “commie money” can go down to their local welfare office like the rest of the “needy”. Having thousands of pipelines to “commie money” isn’t helping anyone out of poverty.

  10. Those hostile to public schools hitched their political wagon to the wrong horse — the Republican-conservative electoral coalition of backwardness, ignorance, superstition, and bigotry.

    Like the gun nuts and anti-abortion absolutists, their political cause will sink with the Republican Party as America continues to become less white, less rural, less religious, less bigoted, and less backward.

    1. Keep predicting Rev.; I can always use a good laugh.

      Now bend over.

    2. “less white” — Gosh Rev, I’m so glad you posted so all us readers can see first hand just how racist the Democratic mob is. How against the Constitution they are. How against rural and religious people they are. How against gun ownership they are.. Too bad all Democratic voters didn’t ‘own’ their philosophy like you do. 🙂

    3. Less rural…like the former citizens of Portland, Seattle, New York City, San Francisco, Chicago who have moved and are moving to suburbs and semi-rural areas? Like those folks? The problem with having your head in the sand is that your ass is out for everyone to kick.

    4. Nobody here (for the most part) is Republican.
      Libertarian is different…

      1. I’m a libertarian (small L) Republican.

        Unfortunately, I reside in the People’s Republic of Oregon, so my state level votes mean jack-squat. My County is very liberty loving, but our district is shared with the psychotically progressive university town next door (different County) and they always get their Nancy Pelosi lapdog Congress critter back in office.

        Then again, the local Republican party keeps running the same unlikeable blowhard every two years. /sigh

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  12. “The incentives are different because one of these sectors gets your money regardless of whether they reopen.” Also because one sector deals with children in crowded classrooms; the other, with adults in large entrance-controlled stores.
    “you should still be able to take your children’s education dollars elsewhere, because the money is for educating the child, not protecting a government monopoly.” But “you” elected that government.

  13. I had to finish my Senior year of High School at a Charter School, as my High School decided that my excused absence at the beginning of the school year was suddenly void and would prevent me from graduating on time, or even that school year. So, having to fight with a vice principal and two teachers to successfully pull me out of my public HS, I went to the Charter School my sibling attended. I managed to complete my Senior Year in only six weeks, leaving me with months of time to goof off and figure out what I wanted to do with myself. I graduated at the same time I would have normally (provided I didn’t have idjit school administrators intentionally trying to hold me back) and went on to a successful career (cut short by a sudden cerebral aneurysm) after obtaining a Post-graduate degree in a STEM field.

    Charters and other alternative education avenues are needed more now than ever and boy, are the progressive teachers unions giving us ample evidence of that need!

  14. We need to bring money and volunteers to these countries as one world, and do all we can to get these children an education so they can thrive. There is power through education and if we want to make a better future.

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