California school district roundly demonstrates why school choice should exist

February 17, 2023

By Tim Worstall

What actually happens to the money in a school board? Fortunately for us, Stockton Unified is here to tell us. The school board in California has a budget of $859 million and expects to be in a $30 million deficit next year. One of the reasons for this might be the idea of buying air filters from a company not qualified to install air filters in California. That’s $7.3 million up in smoke.

That’s not the only thing, of course. It costs more than $2 million to pay the 14 “district executives” employed. That’s also not the only thing. In fact, the entire system is so bad that the grand jury investigated Stockton Unified. More recently – like two days back – the State auditors said there was sufficient evidence of fraud, misappropriation of funds and assets, or other illegal fiscal practices, that yet further investigation must be done.

Fraud can happen anywhere. But what isn’t fraud is bad enough. Like a $1.1 million proposal to send hundreds to a conference in Las Vegas. Also entirely and wholly legal are two ideas for approval at the board meeting a couple of days back. $6,274 to send three board members to a conference in Vegas. $3,873 to send two police to a conference in….Vegas. It’s always Las Vegas, isn’t it? We cannot, for the life of us, understand why so many people want to go to America’s premier resort location in order to discuss business.

Sure, OK, $10,000 is only $10,000 but that’s also only at one board meet and that’s also only folk getting to go to Vegas.

The problem here is one endemic to any taxpayer-funded bureaucracy. There’s a lot of money – that $859 million – flowing through the accounts. And everyone just will look at that and think well, why not? They’re spending other peoples’ money on themselves after all.

Yes, of course, Stockton Unified is the problem writ large. We’ve millions wasted on bad spending – those air filters. Those allegations of actual fraud. Incompetent accounting at the very least. But taxpayers who can’t afford to go to Vegas are having to pay taxes so those who spend the taxes get to go to Vegas. That’s just how bureaucracies turn out.

The answer is not to have the large and wasteful bureaucracy that gets to spend all the money. In this case, with school districts, that means school choice. The education budget – that money forcibly taken off taxpayers – goes to whatever and whichever school the parents have decided to send their own children to. This leaves no room for that higher level of bureaucracy which so enjoys spending the money on themselves.

The school district becomes, at most, a spreadsheet and a checkbook to work out where and then to actually send the money to the individual schools. And no one gets to go to Vegas on that.

There are other benefits to school choice. Like that idea that children will be taught where and how their own parents desire those children get taught. Not forgetting what they get taught as well. But one of those major benefits to be considered is that all those costs – frauds, incompetence, and yes, Vegas – disappear. Simply because school choice means we don’t need the school district bureaucracy and so with school choice, we will not have the school board bureaucracy.

Or, as we should put it, school choice means our education tax dollars actually being spent on schools.


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