« Vouchers Don't Magically Build the Supply of High-Quality Schools | Main | Turbo! »

Americans Are Confused About What Is A Government Program, and This Is Relevant to Education

Suzanne Mettler's current Washington Monthly article about the "submerged welfare state" is getting a lot of attention, particularly for this chart showing that a huge percentage of people who have benefited from government-subsidized social and education programs don't actually realize that they've benefited from government subsidies. It's pretty striking, but even more striking, to me, is that I'm pretty sure that somewhere around 90% of the people who responded to Mettler's survey probably attended public school at some point in their lives--something so taken for granted it didn't even register in Mettler's mind as an example of a government program, though obviously public schools are government-run and taxpayer funded. The fact that people by and large don't think of public education as a "government program" has interesting implications for our overall public debate about public education that folks ought really to think about. (I'd argue, for example, that this is one reason folks like Diane Ravitch can get away with characterizing as a "privatization" agenda things that don't have any obvious connection to the dictionary definition of "privatize.")

But to bring things back down to the realm of the concrete, it is pretty striking that education subsidies--particularly 529s/Coverdells, Hope/Lifetime Learning Tax Credits, and Student Loans--are among the subsidies for which beneficiaries are least likely to recognize they're getting a public subsidy. Note also that these are mostly higher ed, not K-12, subsidies, which a reasonable person might suppose may make some contribution to the insanely skyrocketing inflation in higher ed costs, which far outstrips regular inflation or increased in K-12 or early childhood spending.

Finally, Mettler's general discussion of "tax expenditures"--and their negative impact on our fiscal bottom line, the transparency of public budgeting, and our political debate--is important to note as we're seeing an uptick in state legislative activity around "tax credit scholarship" voucher programs. These programs have been gaining ground in recent years, and for reasons I've never managed to understand, they seem to be embraced by a lot of center-lefty types as a sort of "kinder, softer" voucher--when in fact they are by any reasonable policy criteria one might want to consider much more problematic than vouchers. Tax credit vouchers are problematic on general good government grounds, because, like all tax expenditures, they decrease transparency in public budgeting. And funding vouchers on the tax rather than spending side dramatically reduces public accountability, which is problematic for an education program. If publicly elected officials want to subsidize children's attendance in private schools they should do so honestly and transparently on the spending side of the ledger rather than hiding it through the tax code.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login |  Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here

Tags

AFT
Alex Grodd
Ana Menezes
Andrew Kelly
appropriations
ARRA
Aspire Public Schools
authorizing
Better Lesson
Bill Ferguson
certification
charter schools
child care
children's literature
choice
civil rights
CLASS
Core Knowledge
curriculum
D.C.
democracy
early childhood
Early Learning Challenge Grant
economics
elections
English language learners
entrepreneurship
equity
Evan Stone
fathers
finance
fix poverty first
Hailly Korman
harlem children's zone
HEA
Head Start
head start
health care
Higher Education
home-based child care
homeschooling
housing
How we think and talk about pre-k evidence
i3
IDEA
income inequality
instruction
international
Jason Chaffetz
Jen Medbery
just for fun
Justin Cohen
Kaya Henderson
Kenya
kindergarten
KIPP
Kirabo Jackson
Kwame Brown
land use
LearnBoost
libertarians
LIFO
literacy
Los Angeles
Louise Stoney
Mark Zuckerberg
Maryland
Massachusetts
Memphis
Michelle Rhee
Michigan
Mickey Muldoon
Neerav Kingsland
New Jersey
New Orleans
NewtownReaction
Next Gen leaders
Next Gen Leaders
nonsense
NSVF Summit
NYT
organizing
parent engagement
parenting
parking
pell grants
politics
poverty
PreK-3rd
presidents
principals
productivity
QRIS
Race to the Top
Rafael Corrales
redshirting
regulation
religion
rick hess
Roxanna Elden
RTT
san francisco
school choice
social services
SOTU
special education
Stephanie Wilson
stimulus
story
Sydney Morris
tax credits
Teacher Prep
teachers
technology
Title I
unions
urban issues
Vincent Gray
vouchers
Waiting for Superman
Washington
West Virginia
zoning