Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Government money and strings

With government money comes government strings. Charitable organizations here in Bloomington learned that lesson the hard way last year when the city passed a "Living Wage Ordinance" that forced private charities receiving public funds from the city or contracting with the city to pay a "living wage" to their employees. In order to comply with the LWO, many charitable organizations wondered what they would have to sacrifice in their mission to serve those in need.

This is a lesson I wish supporters of vouchers for private schools would learn. When you take money from the government, the government has a say in how you operate. Will vouchers give the government or the courts a "foot in the door" to restrict religious activity in private schools the way a federal judge restricted the content of prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives? Will private schools be forced to choose between their principles and the narcotic of government money?

Also here in Bloomington, the local school system proposed conducting a highly controversial "sex survey" with graphic questions. They proposed conducting this survey with a highly dishonest and underhanded "passive consent" permission system: unless parents specifically opted out, their child would be given the survey. With this in mind, I urge voucher supporters to ask themselves whether they want the government school monopoly to have a measure of control over private schools in the Hoosier state.

I graduated from Grace Baptist Academy in Angola, Indiana in 1992. I am thankful for the opportunity to be educated in a Christian environment. I am also thankful that GBA did not need to worry about being corrupted by government money.

While I do not doubt that competition would force the government school system to improve, vouchers are not the way to bring about that competition. A far better solution would be property tax credits for parents who opt out of the government school system. Tax credits would also help dedicated parents educate their children at home, something vouchers would not do. This would help keep government influence out of private schools.