- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2012

In The Washington Times news article “McDonnell urges OK for tax credits for school choice” (Web, Tuesday) Virginia Delegate Kenneth R. Plum, Fairfax Democrat, implies that he is not an implacable foe of private-school choice for needy children. When public schools are “fully funded,” says Mr. Plum, advocates of corporate-tax-credit scholarships or other school-choice measures can “come back.” Then Mr. Plum and fellow solons will kindly discuss the issue with them.

However, until that wonderful day arrives when the government-run schools are absolutely and completely funded, parents must continue to wait for any possibility of choice for their children. In truth, no matter what formula bureaucrats apply, public schools never have enough money in the eyes of those who believe government has a claim on all children and tax dollars.

Besides, if public schools ever reached that mythical level of “full funding,” legislators like Mr. Plum would object to any subsidies following children to private schools of choice, because that would mean slippage from the absolutist ideal.

The reality is that public-school budgets have not declined in the states and cities that have started need-based school-choice programs over the past 20 years. When students take a scholarship and leave public schools, that eases the government burden of building classrooms and instructing students. This typically means more resources per-pupil for those who remain.

In any event, the main objective should be helping each child land in the best possible school, public or private, not propping up a bureaucratic system.

ROBERT HOLLAND

Senior fellow for education policy,

Heartland Institute

Chicago