Utah school choice is halfway there – one more push

January 25, 2023

By Tim Worstall

The Utah House has passed school choice. The Senate Education Committee has voted to put it to a full Senate vote. We’re nearly there in another state and that, of course, is a good thing. Of course, this does mean that it has to pass that full Senate vote and perhaps a little reminder to Senators that it is a good thing would be appropriate.

What’s really informative though is who is against this.

Utah’s Republican-majority state school board votes to oppose vouchers

The 15-member board voted 10-5 to take a public stance against HB215.

Wait, what? We have Republicans voting against school choice? Yes, we do, and in that is the lesson about what is going on here. This is not a battle between R and D in the education system at all. It is a battle between us — us parents and our children — and the education bureaucracy. That bureaucracy, in Republican states, will likely be Republican too. Because that’s where the political power lies.

Our aim is not to move power from one political party to another. It’s to move the power over our children away from the bureaucracy, the power nexus, to us parents. And that is what school choice is about. We can call it ESAs, charter schools, magnet, we can call it Great Grandma Ethel if we wish. The task, the project and aim, is that we decide, in detail, what our children get taught, not them. So, we remove power from them and reclaim it ourselves. That is what it is all about.

As we’ve said before, this isn’t about who is the bureaucrat, nor what their ideas are. It’s about changing the system, not the people, so that no one has that power. Or, we have it and no one other than we parents does. As we said about Iowa’s vote:

That’s the one single action required to bring freedom to the education system. Parents now decide where to send their child to school – the state’s money follows that decision.

What this actually means is that the central bureaucracy loses its power over what children are taught and how. For parents who do not agree with that curriculum or attitude can simply switch their kids to another which is more aligned with their values.

So, why is the Board of Education against this? Because they are that central bureaucracy and as everyone knows a bureaucracy just hates the idea of losing power. It hates losing control of the budget too. So, the BoE is against a law that means the BoE is less important, with less money to spend. This is true whether it is R or D, because this is not a political party point. It is an institutional point, not about party.

The real argument going on here is do we, as parents, get to determine the education of our children? Or do some group of folk over there in the state capital, or hiding in some committees of the local school district, get to decide that for us? Not just decide but impose it upon our kids?

We know our answer to that, just as the bureaucracy knows its own. This leads us to a very interesting way of thinking about such power struggles and political (but not party-political) arguments. Judge how good an idea is by looking who is against it. If the only people objecting are those who directly lose from it then perhaps we’re onto something pretty good here. That it is the educational bureaucracy – those who will lose power, influence and budget from school choice – who are against school choice is an indication that we do have a good idea here. This is true even if the Board of Education complaining is Republican in nature.

Obviously, we hope that the Utah Senate votes in favor of school choice because we’re in favor of school choice. But the reason we’re in favor is that choice reduces the influence of the school and education bureaucracy. This just isn’t a party political point it’s one about who rules, who governs. Us or them? The reason the Board of Education is against this is that they’re on the other side of exactly the same argument.

Which is, in the end, what this is all about. School choice, vouchers, charters, magnet schools, all of it, it’s about the one simple, thing. Who decides what and how our children get taught? Is it us, us parents? Or them in their offices?


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