For too long, we have seen many public schools fail. At the same time, we’ve seen private and parochial schools succeed, but unable to accept many of the children whose parents cannot afford the tuition. That’s why I sponsored the repeal of the Blaine Amendment, which will pave the way for school vouchers.
The government today spends over $18,000 per student in a public school. Under my proposal, the parents would get a choice to send their child to a public school or to get a voucher for half of that amount – $9,000. This would mean that public school spending per child would decrease, while at the same time allowing parents to send their child to a private school of their choice.
Under this plan, frum families would finally be treated fairly. After all, they all pay taxes, but they do not get the ability to have their children benefit from government-paid education. My proposal would allow frum families to get the educational benefits that they deserve without costing the government additional funds.
Even a $9,000 voucher per student would cause many parents to opt their children out of the public school system, thus saving the government 50% of the expenditures per student. The number of students transferring from public to private schools will be significantly higher than the number of students who are presently in private schools who would be eligible for the vouchers. In the end, the government would be able to save money, and potentially even improve public school education by having more money per student for the remaining kids.
But would this bill pass the Constitutional regulations? The only problem here would be, if the government began funding religious education. If the $9,000 voucher was directed to go to non-religious subjects such as math, as well as lunch, busing, administration and building upkeep, there is no reason the voucher should be in violation of the Separation of Church and State.
But can this plan pass? We’ve all heard Democrat politicians tell us that vouchers are not realistic. But how can a law be unrealistic when the majority supports it? Most Senators and Assemblymen represent districts that want school vouchers. This is true not just for the frum Jews, but also Catholics, African-American, Hispanic-Americans, and many other religious and ethnic groups. How can politicians all go against the will of the people?
They can’t. But they also don’t want to support vouchers because teachers’ unions, which are opposed to school choice, give many millions of dollars to Democratic politicians.
So the Democrats came up with a scheme: to tell their constituents that they support vouchers, but that other legislators make it impossible. Before the law is even introduced, the Democrats tell us to give up and not even put up the bill for a vote. This allows them to fulfill their promises to the unions while at the same time they can avoid voting against the interests of their constituents.
Let me be clear and blunt: the idea that vouchers are unrealistic is a lie. It is one of those lies that makes people not trust their elected officials, and for good reason.
Think about it: how many laws were passed where the majority is opposed to them? Think of marriage redefinition, tax hikes, Obamacare. All of these were opposed by the people, and yet all were passed. And they are telling us that a bill that has the support of the majority of New Yorkers would fail and has no realistic chance of passing?! Does that sound honest to you?
That’s why I sponsored school vouchers in the New York State Senate. We need the bill on the floor of the Senate and Assembly. We need to force all those who sold out for union money to make a choice: do they want to side with their constituents or with the unions?