This worries <i>you</i> because . . . ?

Kevin Drum, who is opposed to vouchers, says of my post:

. . . it somehow fails to address the single biggest problem with school vouchers: oversight. If you're going to receive taxpayer dollars, then you have to agree to taxpayer oversight. That means that NCLB applies to you. It means that minimum state curriculum requirements apply to you. It means that teacher union rules apply to you. It means you have a lot less authority to pick and choose which kids you're willing to accept. And, yes, it means you can't use taxpayer money to proselytize for whichever religion your board of directors happens to favor. Like it or not, that's a no-no for public funds, especially when kids are involved.

But as near as I can tell, this is anathema to people who run private schools. They won't accept any oversight, let alone the level of oversight that's inevitable with any widespread voucher program. Taxpayers simply aren't willing to shower money on anything that calls itself a school without having some say in how the money is used. And rightly so.

Roughly speaking, this is why I tentatively favor charter schools but not voucher schemes. Charter schools allow for experimentation, which is good, but also accept state oversight. I don't really see how things can work any other way.

For one thing, if this is in fact true, then what do voucher opponents have to worry about? No one will accept the vouchers? Problem solved: the public schools will be saved!

For another, the state regulations are part of the problem with the schools, and no, it is not necessary to port them all over, which I agree would make vouchers useless. You can set basic curricular requirements and test kids to see how many are making the cut (and how far they've come since the previous year) without, for example, importing the ludicrous credentialing system most schools currently use, or the 97 layers of administration. We manage to pay college tuitions just fine without deciding who can teach what subject and how.

For third, Kevin seems to be under the misimpression that you cannot use federal dollars to get prosletyzed. The many students attending our nations' christian colleges on federal student loans and Pell grants would be very surprised to hear that. You can use federal education dollars to study anything you want, including, AFAIK, for the ministry. The federal government, it seems, will not only pay to get you prosleytized, it will pay to teach you how to do it to others, provided only that the payment is viewpoint neutral: i.e., you, not the government, decide what you want to study. There's very clear case law on this from the Supreme Court.

And weirdly, the taxpayer has done all of these things, even though Kevin says they won't. If Kevin, a taxpayer, were to join us in advocating for vouchers, perhaps more taxpayers would see their way clear to doing so again at the secondary level.

I agree it's an uphill fight . . . but it's clearly not impossible, because we've already done it.