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Voucher: Solution or Flawed Compromise ?
FEE ^ | 6/30/05 | Robert Parker

Posted on 06/30/2005 8:26:26 AM PDT by cinives

American public schools can be described in only one way: an unmitigated failure. The government has created an educational system free of the checks and balances that normally guide success and encourage innovation in the marketplace, namely, profit and loss in a setting of open competition. Instead, government schools shelter teachers through life-long tenure, virtually eliminating all accountability about what and how subjects are taught in the classroom. Furthermore, there are few incentives for cost-efficiency because this could result in budget reductions. Instead, whenever there seems to be a “learning problem,” the cry is for more of the taxpayers’ money.

The only real solution is to put education back into the marketplace. Unfortunately, some of the proposed “market solutions” are really still government solutions, since they come with political strings attached. One of the most popular of these is the school-voucher plan.

The Voucher Plan

The voucher has excited many pro-market advocates over the years. Under the plan, government would still collect taxes for education, but parents would be allowed to select the schools that their sons and daughters would attend. Theoretically, the government would be a silent third-party to the transaction, merely issuing the vouchers used as payment.

This would purportedly place all families in America on the same level playing field. School choice no longer would be a privilege of the rich; it would become a reality for all. Allowing parents to choose their children’s schools would make those schools accountable to them. If a school failed to meet particular parents’ standards, they would shift their children to another, taking the vouchers with them.

Unfortunately, proponents of the voucher fail to fully understand that the government involvement which has been so destructive of education would continue with their plan.

The Voucher Fallacy

For the voucher scheme to work as its advocates suggest, government would have to separate its check-writing powers from its regulatory powers. In other words, the government would have to allow parents to use the vouchers at any school of their choosing, without any comments, criticisms, or controls over that school’s curriculum or methods.

However, even a cursory examination of the reality of American politics exposes one inevitable truth: whatever the government pays for it ends up controlling. There are no exceptions!

Two cases prove instructive on this issue: Hillsdale College and the Virginia Military Academy (VMI).

Hillsdale College is a small liberal-arts institution in Michigan that has been admitting and graduating women, blacks, and other minority students on an equal basis with white men since before the Civil War. The college was never accused of or shown to have discriminated because of race or gender in its entire history. But in the 1970s the government decreed that because Hillsdale accepted students receiving federal aid it must comply with all federal regulations, including anti-discrimination laws. Hillsdale argued that since the government money went to students, and not directly to the college, it should not be subject to regulations. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that any college which accepts students who bring along federal dollars must follow the government’s rules. What was especially disturbing was the Court’s ruling that, even without evidence of discrimination, student aid could be terminated if the school failed to abide by federal guidelines concerning student admissions and anti-discrimination campus policies.

Twenty years later that precedent was used against VMI, an all-male military school that received money from the federal government in the form of student financial aid. A lawsuit against the school claimed sexual discrimination, and the court ruled that because VMI received federal tax dollars, it had to adhere to all federal regulations, including those prohibiting sex discrimination.

The Flawed Compromise

Although appearing to be a free-market solution, the voucher system could actually destroy any real alternative to the public schools. While vouchers might improve education slightly in the short term, over the longer run they would threaten to destroy any possibility of real school choice and undermine existing educational pluralism among private schools in America.

First, private schools accepting vouchers would become hooked on government money and increasingly doubtful over whether they could exist without it. Then, like the VMI and Hillsdale cases, government regulations would begin to envelop these schools. Maybe not the first day, or the first year, but eventually pressure groups with “politically correct” axes to grind would pressure the government and courts to extend controls to these new institutions caught in the web of government dependency.

Many private schools that wished to maintain their autonomy might be unable to survive the subsidized competition from the public schools and private schools that accepted vouchers. Those that did survive would most likely have to raise their tuition and once more become schools more or less exclusively for “the rich.”

Private schools accepting vouchers and the accompanying regulations would become de facto “public” schools, reduced to the standards and quality of the existing government system. All would be forced to conform to the government’s model, with no real competition and choice. This would take from parents any incentive to shop around for the best schools for their children. Some of the weaker schools might close, but the vast majority would exist under the government’s regulatory standard.

Finally, a new layer of bureaucracy would arise, with new offices to oversee the program and to assure that schools followed the rules. Once again, tax money would finance a bloated government infrastructure—money that parents could have been spending on their children’s education.

How different, then, would that system look from today’s current public-school system, in which parents are stuck sending their children to deficient public schools unless they can afford to pay more money out of their after-tax income for better private schools?

Although the voucher proposal may look like a market-based alternative to public education, when analyzed with foresight and an understanding of how politics actually works, it is revealed to be a mirage and not a free-market oasis.

Like it or not, it should never be forgotten that every government dollar comes with strings attached. Schools dependent on government money can never become the basis of an actual market-based educational system. To develop such a competitive system, we must allow and require schools to operate according to the rules of the market, where consumers—in this case parents—spend their own money.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: choice; fasttrack; private; reform; schools; voucher
every government dollar comes with strings attached

This must never be forgotten.

1 posted on 06/30/2005 8:26:27 AM PDT by cinives
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To: cinives

Ok, then what is the solution? I can see his point and agree with it, but what is a good alternative to this situation? Anyone have any suggestions?


2 posted on 06/30/2005 8:38:47 AM PDT by calex59
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To: calex59

My solution is to put Republicans in charge of all teacher's unions and all public schools.


3 posted on 06/30/2005 8:55:17 AM PDT by tkathy (Tyranny breeds terrorism. Freedom breeds peace.)
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To: cinives

The answer is to require very limited testing twice a year for any student's school to receive the payment (and allow an option of only testing once a year, if the school is willing to wait a whole year to get any payment). Testing should be limited to math, reading/spelling/vocabulary/grammar, facts-only physical science, and possibly some very basic facts-only material on how government works (like the existence of federal and state senates and houses of representatives, governors, a President, etc. -- since a huge number of public school grads haven't a clue about this stuff). No room for political or religious issues, keep the tests to between 1-2 hours depending on age/grade level, and keep the questions and grading to a strictly right-or-wrong answer format. Have the tests administered at many convenient locations, administered by people who have no vested interest in the economics of the system, and who have no information about which students are attending which schools.

Set the standards to approximately the current 50th percentile of public school students, and once kids pass the twelfth grade level (even if they do it when they're 10 years old, which wouldn't be uncommon for a lot homeschooled kids), let them get their vouchers until they're 18, without any further testing. This system would allow homeschoolers, and little neighborhood private schools run by a mom or grand-dad or whoever in somebody's kitchen, to get the money for getting a minimum of the same job done that the public schools currently get done. Most would obviously do a lot more, but this would at least eliminate the need to limit vouchers to large schools which get inspected and regulated by the government, and would eliminate flat-out fraud by "home schools" or "private schools" which are doing nothing at all but pocketing the money (as is the case with a lot of federally funded adult vocational schools now).


4 posted on 06/30/2005 9:02:55 AM PDT by GovernmentShrinker
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To: calex59

See my post #4.


5 posted on 06/30/2005 9:03:15 AM PDT by GovernmentShrinker
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To: calex59

How about repealing all taxes used to fund schools (property taxes especially) and requiring parents to pay for school? Probably not realistic though. Some parents would still need financial assistance and there are state constitutional provisions mandating that the state provide an education to all. Vouchers with a provision that the government not be allowed to inquire as to which institution the money is directed by the parent? Feasible?


6 posted on 06/30/2005 9:04:53 AM PDT by negril
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To: calex59

How about repealing all taxes used to fund schools (property taxes especially) and requiring parents to pay for school? Probably not realistic though. Some parents would still need financial assistance and there are state constitutional provisions mandating that the state provide an education to all. Vouchers with a provision that the government not be allowed to inquire as to which institution the money is directed by the parent? Feasible?


7 posted on 06/30/2005 9:05:41 AM PDT by negril
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To: calex59

The solution is stated at the conclusion of the article - return the school systems to the private sector. Reform is impossible - all that does is add more layers of mandates and bureaucracy, driving up the cost and driving down learning standards.

Schools don't have to cost as much as they do today - most of the costs are a result of the bureaucracy and mandates from the state and federal government that have nothing to do with the 3Rs. The 3Rs and a lot beyond that can be accomplished in a lot less time than 12 years.

Public schools today are a jobs project, nothing more. Propaganda is second on their agenda, Education is last.


8 posted on 06/30/2005 9:06:04 AM PDT by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: negril

Most state constitutions that I have read on this subject limit themselves to promoting the education of children to be useful citizens. I've yet to see one (it may be out there but I don't know of it) that specifically gives children a RIGHT to an education.

In Pennsylvania, school codes from 1949 state this, but not the Constitution of PA.

Vouchers where the state has no oversight - not likely. How would you feel if your tax dollars went to vouchers to pay for an education in a madrassas here i the U.S. ? I know I wouldn't like it.

No, the only way is to stop funding education via tax money.


9 posted on 06/30/2005 9:13:21 AM PDT by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: calex59

IMHO, there does not appear to be a politically acceptable solution to an intractable problem of poor schools.


10 posted on 06/30/2005 9:16:54 AM PDT by verity (Big Dick Durbin is still a POS)
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To: GovernmentShrinker; DaveLoneRanger

see my post #9 - however, your solution is fatally flawed as well.

Think - who would set the standards for the standardized testing ?

If you rely on standardized testing to prove results, then you will need to use curriculum that matches the standards.

Most parents whose kids do not go to public schools (private, parochial, or homeschool) have problems with the curriculums (and methods) of public schools, and would not want to be held to public school standards for curriculums.


11 posted on 06/30/2005 9:17:28 AM PDT by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: negril

Sorry, I hit the post button before I was finished.

There's a difference between day care and schools that most people (not necessarily including you in this) have forgotten.

Our forebearers did very well with a 4th grade education - but, the standards were such that a 4th grade education in 1850 was probably the equivalent of a 12th grade education or better today.

And, I won't accept any argument that a high-tech society required better education. Yes, some jobs do, but consider this - the high tech society was created by school dropouts. Think Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, and many many more. And - have you met an 8 year old today who can't use a digital camera, computer with all types of software, and search on the Internet ?

Could most people pay for 4 years of school for their kids if they were not paying property and state and federal taxes related to education ? Maybe not the people with 8 kids, but those with 2 ? Of course they could.


12 posted on 06/30/2005 9:24:56 AM PDT by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: GovernmentShrinker
The answer is to require very limited testing twice a year for any student's school to receive the payment

Good idea for improving the voucher system, but I can go one better I can save the present system, (since our proposals are imposed and have no plan to get by the present Teacher-school board-voter coalition).

I would drop the requirement that teachers join unions (right to work states) I would require annual renegotiation of teachers contracts with a committee of the principal and several members of the community who would be elected during general elections and would be required to have no conflict of interest with the teacher's union.

I would accept the present system of school board and principal doing the annual renegotiation provided that every member of the board show that there is no conflict of interest with the teacher's union. In other words, eliminate the electoral influence of the teachers union and you have the job won. There is no way the teachers should be able to control the body that sets their salaries, approves their bosses and approves their curiculum.

Have the tests administered at many convenient locations, administered by people who have no vested interest in the economics of the system

You have noticed the conflict of interest issue I see.

13 posted on 06/30/2005 9:37:11 AM PDT by KC_for_Freedom (Sailing the highways of America, and loving it.)
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To: negril

I'd be happy to see all those consitutional provisions repealed. Nobody is "entitled" to anything that involves forcible taking of someone else's property.

But given the reality of innocent children with parents who are irresponsible enough to have children when they can't afford to support them (including paying for school), or parents who don't give a crap about their children's futures and spend all their money on booze or vacations or cars, I expect virtually all local communities would choose to set up some system to make sure these children get educated.


14 posted on 06/30/2005 9:53:45 AM PDT by GovernmentShrinker
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To: cinives

And the people with 8 kids should be getting the loud message that they have no business having 8 kids, if they can't afford to pay for their education and all their other basic needs, without taxpayer assistance.


15 posted on 06/30/2005 9:55:33 AM PDT by GovernmentShrinker
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To: GovernmentShrinker

Those types of parents are not seeing that their kids get an education even today, with all the welfare and gov't provided support. Seat time is not education.

You'll always have dregs in society. Why drag the rest of society down to the lowest level just because there are a percentage at that level ? Why not end the charade of educating those who don't want it/don't appreciate it, and set the standards higher for those who will work at getting an education ?

If education was cheap, and it had value in the eyes of society, even the dregs and the children of dregs might be motivated to try.

You don't appreciate what you get for free nearly as much as something you have to work for. Think the "Law of the Commons".


16 posted on 06/30/2005 10:39:28 AM PDT by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: cinives
Seat time is not education.

Indeed it's not. Which is why I propose a system in which tax dollars are only paid out AFTER some minimum results are achieved. And those minimum results, while very low, are still higher than what 50% of public school students are currently achieving at huge cost to the taxpayers.

17 posted on 06/30/2005 10:54:24 AM PDT by GovernmentShrinker
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To: GovernmentShrinker

Well, agreed there, but why tax dollars at all ?

Health care costs used to be affordable until the gov't got into it with medicare et al. Schools, the same.

Remove government and all regulations, that removes most of the cost, and each can afford his/her own.


18 posted on 06/30/2005 12:15:58 PM PDT by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: cinives

Because the only atlernative is mandatory passive contraceptive installation in every female of child-beraing age who can't prove she'd be able to support a child if she had one. Irresponsible people keep squirting out babies they have no way of supporting, and if these babies grow up without any education whatsoever, they end up costing the taxpayers a lot more than the education would have cost (in many cases, by murdering or maiming said taxpayers).


19 posted on 06/30/2005 1:12:39 PM PDT by GovernmentShrinker
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To: GovernmentShrinker

"Set the standards to approximately the current 50th percentile of public school students, and once kids pass the twelfth grade level (even if they do it when they're 10 years old, which wouldn't be uncommon for a lot homeschooled kids), let them get their vouchers until they're 18, without any further testing."

***I agree. We have been discussing inexpensive ways to fast track kids through high school to avoid the liberal agenda and other idiocies:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1315730/posts?page=84#84

Unfortunately my thread title was not well thought out, because some parents might instinctively skip over it due to attached stigma, whether real or imagined.


20 posted on 06/30/2005 4:51:46 PM PDT by Kevin OMalley (No, not Freeper#95235, Freeper #1165: Charter member, What Was My Login Club.)
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To: Kevin OMalley

Interesting approach. I think a lot of homeschoolers do essentially that. Homeschool entirely through 8th grade, and then phase in community college courses and/or individual high school courses in school districts which allow that.

Another important issue, though, is the huge numbers of kids who just shouldn't be doing high school or college academic work at the traditional age. We're spending colossal amounts of education for kids in the 14-22 age range, which is a time when most them really care about nothing that isn't driven by hormones and/or lack of life experience. Except for the small minority who are really academically self-motivated at that age, they'd be better off doing something like working at McDonald's, and maybe taking one course at a time that meets 2-3 times a week, until such time as they are serious about pursuing education.

It's a horribly common pattern in the U.S. that young people totally waste their time in high school and college, while taxpayers and parents are footing the huge bill for the illusion that they are "studying" full time. Then when they reach their mid 20s or early 30s or whenever they get a clue, they'd really like to do it all over again and get a serious education that will land them good and steady employment, but the money's all been spent and nobody's offering them a free ride anymore, now that they're really serious about studying.


21 posted on 06/30/2005 6:44:39 PM PDT by GovernmentShrinker
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To: cinives; 2Jedismom; FreedomHasACost; mtbrandon49; DarthDilbert; Peanut Gallery; Restorer; ...



"Just think what your children will be missing by homeschooling them!" *Snorts* Not!
22 posted on 07/08/2005 7:32:27 PM PDT by DaveLoneRanger (Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13))
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To: cinives

"every government dollar comes with strings attached"
This must never be forgotten.
---

Yes, especially with the Bush 'faith based' ploy that will as Roy Black said, corrupt government and destory religion.

I agree Vouchers are flawed. Charter schools are teh answer, except that they should be considered for profit private schools and all private schools should be cosniderd charter schools:
http://www.neoperspectives.com/charterschoolsexplained.htm


23 posted on 07/08/2005 7:39:20 PM PDT by traviskicks (http://www.neoperspectives.com/scotuspropertythieving.htm)
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To: traviskicks

I must agree. While vouchers would have the desirable effect of damaging the public schools and perhaps destroying the teachers' unions (an effect better than the first), it would bring most of homeschooling under direct government control--which will be a problem directly.


24 posted on 07/09/2005 1:22:04 AM PDT by Seņor Zorro ("The ability to speak does not make you intelligent"--Qui-Gon Jinn)
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To: Seņor Zorro; GovernmentShrinker

I have seen proposals in the past for a tuition tax credit instead of a voucher. What say you?


25 posted on 07/09/2005 6:35:05 AM PDT by Warhammer (In memory of Vernon Grant Jr, (#20) We'll miss you.)
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To: Warhammer; traviskicks

Why get the government involved at all ? As an example, catholic parochial schools educate the K-8 group at a cost of about $ 2000 per year. If I took my property taxes as somewhat standard for a suburban area, I could pay to put 4 kids thru K-8 without one additional dime.

Why do all of you insist the government still has a role at all ? No tax credits, no vouchers, no property taxes, no state subsidies, no federal tax dollars. You would be surprised how cheap education would be, and how well accomplished kids would become when it becomes a voluntary activity.

In colonial days, an educated citizen used to spend no more than 3 years in a school situation, and some additional years before that at home spending a few hours a day at home learning to read, write, and do arithmetic. The statistic is that 97% of the population was at least literate(could read). Boys used to start attending Harvard University at 14 or 15. Are we intellectually inferior than our ancestors ? Men and women became productive members of the business community without 16 years of schooling. And please, don't use technology as the excuse for a greater need for education. Kids teach themselves computer skills with no problem.

Government has no business at all in the educational field except to indoctrinate the young and control society.


26 posted on 07/11/2005 6:32:55 AM PDT by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: cinives
Are we intellectually inferior than our ancestors?

No. We homeschool, and we are pretty confident that our childeren will be done with High School by ages 14 or 15.

Why do all of you insist the government still has a role at all ?

I don't insist this at all. (I merely posted this for comment, not to endorse it.) I agree that the ideal, perfect-world situation (and the one that I would pick when and if I am in charge of these things) would be to get government completely out of this field.

As a practical matter, however, I don't see them getting out of the "education" business (unless the government goes out of business altogether), and I would be interested in the possiblity of getting some of my taxes back that I'm paying into a failed "education" system that I have opted out of. Tuition tax credits seemed like they might be a less-intrusive method of doing this than vouchers. If it meant having to knuckle under to government's rules and indoctrination, however, they can keep the money. (Which is why I wouldn't do a voucher, BTW, for the reasons that have been discussed in the article.)

Government has no business at all in the educational field except to indoctrinate the young and control society.

Agreed. That's the biggest reason that we homeschool.

27 posted on 07/11/2005 8:47:19 AM PDT by Warhammer (In memory of Vernon Grant Jr, (#20) We'll miss you.)
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To: Warhammer

Nope, no thanks. I'm sick of the government trying to manipulate people's behavior through complicated tax schemes -- and a tax credit such as you propose would certainly not be made available to "high income" people (and like the current "alternative minimum tax" abomination, that would end up including people who live in very expensive parts of the country, who are struggling to pay for a very modest lifestyle -- did you see the article in the NYT a couple of days ago about the cheapest apartment for sale in Manhattan? $215,000 will get you a whopping 180 square feet, and of course on top of the mortgage you have to pay the coop/condo's monthly maintenance fee, which is usually well into the hundreds even for a tiny apartment, and if you want a parking space that will run another $350/month or so, so you'll probably decide to do without both the car and the parking space, even if you're making low 6 figures a year.).

And of course it's higher income people who currently pay a disproportionate percentage of the public school-supporting taxes, have fewer children on average than average and lower income people, and are usually paying the full tab for private schools for their own few children, while also paying the tab for other people's children to attend the public schools.

Enough already. Shut down all the public schools and hand out vouchers in the exact same amount for every child of a U.S. citizen. Anybody who wants a more expensive school for their child than the voucher will buy, can pay the difference out of pocket.


28 posted on 07/11/2005 10:36:25 AM PDT by GovernmentShrinker
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To: cinives

I agree with you, but from a political sense, it makes more sense to move to charter schools first, (as documented by my previous link), and then move to the pure libertarian system wherby eduacation is in the hands of the people and not in the power of government at all.

Step by step.


29 posted on 07/11/2005 2:02:20 PM PDT by traviskicks (http://www.neoperspectives.com/scotuspropertythieving.htm)
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To: cinives

How about NOT making it a government dollar by never taking it from the parent in the first place? Allow parents a tuition tax credit per child sent to school.


30 posted on 07/11/2005 2:07:24 PM PDT by Puddleglum (Thank God the Boston blowhard lost)
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To: GovernmentShrinker

Who the hell is "having eight kids?" Or is this just some hypothetical?

Is education a basic need? Probably. But you have to admit there is a terrible amount of diploma inflation out there - the need to have a piece of paper to prove you're somebody. It costs more to prove you're somebody these days than it used to, and you can't blame parents for inflating the value society puts on what is usually a pretty worthless peice of paper. To say they can't have 8 kids unless they can afford some some artificial pedigree is absurd. Government broke the education system, not the parents trying to provide a good start for their kids.


31 posted on 07/11/2005 2:13:16 PM PDT by Puddleglum (Thank God the Boston blowhard lost)
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To: cinives
every government dollar comes with strings attached

Most government dollars should never have left a private citizen's pocket in the first place. Sometimes you gotta take some risk to rectify a situation.

32 posted on 07/11/2005 2:17:41 PM PDT by Puddleglum (Thank God the Boston blowhard lost)
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To: Puddleglum

My thoughts exactly. There is so much diploma inflation today that Hertz Rent-A-Car hires only college graduates for their counter help. Yes, their counter help. You know, the person who helps you fill out the blank spaces in the form, runs your credit card, and says, Have A Nice Day. You need a $ 66,000 college education for that ? A person with a 10th grade education of 20 years ago would do that job just fine.

The only reason I don't like the tuition tax credit idea is that it implies that taxes for education were extracted already. I don't believe gradualism works at all. The only way to quit a bad habit is cold-turkey. The problem with gradualism is, the system still doesn't work, and you will get those on the left who will blame it on not enough government influence.


33 posted on 07/12/2005 5:42:52 AM PDT by cinives (On some planets what I do is considered normal.)
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To: GovernmentShrinker

With your permission, I'd like to copy your response over at the other thread so that people investigating this option would have only one place to look...


34 posted on 07/12/2005 8:45:56 AM PDT by Kevin OMalley (No, not Freeper#95235, Freeper #1165: Charter member, What Was My Login Club.)
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To: Kevin OMalley

Permission granted!


35 posted on 07/12/2005 11:39:22 AM PDT by GovernmentShrinker
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