The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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*Their* Money: Thoughts on Vouchers

Newsgroups: alt.atheism
Subject: A new look at vouchers
From: (Wayne Aiken)
Date: 1 Aug 1995 19:13:36 GMT

(Used by permission of the author)

Wayne Aiken has debated issues of Separation in the Internet Newsgroups for years. We appreciate receiving his permission to publish this.

This occurred to me the other day, while listening to a talk-show debate on school vouchers.

Some people want a "rebate" on the money they give to the state to educate their children, in order to spend that money in religious schools of their choice. Fine, although that they get might not be what they expect.

The problem is, the money that a person pays into the system for schools, via property taxes, sales tax, etc. is *NOT* for the education of their own children, but for public education as a whole**. Many of the arguments I've heard that support this is that public education is supposed to be good for the community as a whole, hence everybody pays. I have no children in the school system, yet I must pay to educate other people's children. Other people, with children or not, do the same. The illusion inherent in the system is that the money taken from them is taken for "their" children- it is not.

If there is to be any "rebate", then the amount given back is *not* the total amount contributed, but the percentage portion represented by their children versus the entire system. If a person pays $5000 into a school system with 1000 children, then the total amount of *their* money paying for *their* children is $5 per child. That is all they should expect back for removing their children from the public school system; the rest is the "common good" payment. Any more than that, received either through tax credits or voucher payments, means that they have unfairly shifted the "common good" burden to other people.

If instead, you look at it from the point of the "total" amount of money for each child following that child, then you have still have the problem that the vast majority of that total is from *other people*, who cannot legally be forced to contribute to sectarian institutions against their will. Despite claims of "choice", it is *still not a free-market system* as long as the people paying are not the people directly benefiting, and I find it perverse that many otherwise capitalistic-free-market-preaching conservatives have no problem with such a special welfare system, as long as its to *their* advantage.

Any voucher system, no matter how you cut it, is still almost entirely *other people's money", and will remain a separation violation, as long as the socialistic elements remain in the system.

[**] Whether people should be forced to contribute money for collectivist social institutions or not is a separate issue altogether. As long as the system exists, for better or worse, everyone has to be treated equally.

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