Sen. Rand Paul is concerned about education
. The Kentucky Republican has taken to the op-ed page of, where else, the Washington Times
to express this concern and offer his solution, minus any detail about how it would actually work. That solution, of course, is a radical version of
the free market.
At the outset, Paul places responsibility for fixing inequality squarely on the schools, writing that "America’s educational system is leaving behind anyone who starts with disadvantages, and that is wrong." As if schools alone can fix the disastrous outcomes of the economic policies Paul and his party push, can reverse the findings of study after study that the biggest factors by far in educational outcomes are things, like poverty, created outside the schools, and that in-school factors are a tiny fraction of educational outcomes. So that's Paul's starting point: America's educational system should do something that there's no real indication can be done on a large scale and fix inequality within the schools, all while Paul and his Republican colleagues in Congress keep doing their damnedest to increase inequality through policy.
Paul's answer: "Let the taxes you pay for education follow each and every student to the school of your choice."
That is just a terribly constructed sentence. The taxes I pay for education should follow every student to the school of my choice? Somehow I don't think that's what he's saying. (But you never know: This is Rand Paul we're talking about here.) Is he saying the taxes each family pays for education should follow that family's kids to the school of that family's choice? More likely, but what would it look like as a policy? Would it be literally the exact taxes that each family pays that go to education that went to their kids? Given that schools are often funded largely through property taxes, that would pose something of a problem for renters. Would people without kids in the schools not pay taxes for education, radically defunding the entire education system?
Later, Paul frames it slightly differently, writing, "Let the taxes Americans pay for education follow every student to the school of his or her family’s choice." So we all pay the same amount of taxes and kids all get the same fraction of the funding (at least within districts; already there's a lot of inequality between districts because of that whole property tax thing)? And then kids whose families can afford or almost afford private school are getting a break on their tuition at said private school, while kids for whom private school was astronomically out of reach find that it is now only extremely out of reach? And, schools have a whole new set of incentives to cheat on tests and otherwise make themselves look better than they really are in the competition for more students? Would people be able to use tax dollars sending their kids to schools that didn't allow gay kids? (Oh, hey, they already do, in Georgia.) Okay, how about black kids? Would there be any kind of oversight of what these schools are teaching beyond "well, someone wants to send their kid there, so good enough"? And it goes without saying that there would be no labor standards beyond things like the minimum wage (which, actually, Paul opposes, so I guess in his dream world you could pay teachers pennies an hour).
But you don't actually need to know quite what he means to know that his conclusion is absurd: "When every child can, like the president’s kids, go to the school of their choice, then will the dreams of our children come true." Forget if they have homes, forget if they have enough food to eat, forget if they have health care. It's all about whether kids can afford to go to Sidwell Friends—which 99.99 percent of those who currently can't still won't under Paul's plan.