A Philosophical Argument for Government Scholarship Policy

The Nebraska Examiner described Legislative Bill 753, the Scholarships Act, as a bill that “provides public funds for private schools.” Specifically, Legislative Bill 753 is described as “a bill that would allocate at least $25 million a year from taxpayer funds for tax credits for donations to private school scholarships.”

The philosophical public policy question raised by LB 753 is what is the purpose of taxpayer funded K-12 education?

The goal of taxpayer-funded K-12 education is to ensure that all children, regardless of the financial background of their families, receive a basic education that will enable them to function reasonably well in society after high school.

Is there only one way to provide this education? Of course not. It may be provided by public schools, parochial schools, non-religious non-profit schools, for-profit schools, or home schools.

But some say public funds should only go to public schools. But that’s not how federal, state, and local governments provide many other services to citizens.

For example, when the Department of Highways needs to build or rehabilitate a highway, they usually do not do the work themselves. They hire and pay a private company through competitive bidding to do the job.

Many government programs allow people to choose how to spend their government benefits. For example, Medicaid allows beneficiaries to choose their doctor from among those doctors who accept Medicaid patients. They do not need to go to a government doctor or a government hospital.

Another example is food stamps (now known as SNAP). Recipients can choose where to buy products and, within certain limits, which products to buy.

So why should a K-12 education be any different? Why shouldn’t parents decide to spend money on public education in the same way? That is, they choose the school that they consider the best for their children.

Some say it will destroy public education.

But even if, in what seems highly unlikely, all public schools are replaced by publicly funded private schools, the goal of taxpayer-funded K-12 education will still be achieved—Nebraska’s children will receive a basic education that will enable them to function normally. in society after graduation.

Opportunity Scholarships are likely to enhance the quality of K-12 education because both public schools and private schools will need to provide services that reassure parents that their children will be best served at a particular school.

Finally, K-12 tuition money is not public school money, but comes from students’ parents and grandparents, among other things. All the more reason why parents should be able to choose which school to spend money on — just like Medicaid, food stamps, and other government-funded programs.

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