When a Voucher Masquerades as Charity: We All Lose

Question: When is a voucher not a voucher?

Answer: When a legislator wants to perform slight of hand!

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Make no mistake, SB407 currently under consideration by the Oklahoma legislature is a voucher bill. There is not a question in anyone’s mind. Not those that favor traditional vouchers nor those opposed to vouchers, like Pastors for Oklahoma Kids (and the vast majority of Oklahomans).

  • Economist Milton Friedman, known widely as the ‘father of vouchers’, once said, “…an inferior tax credit program seems the only political option. Tax credits are an indirect, and I believe less efficient, way to do what vouchers do more directly.” (May 17, 2005)

  • Robert VerBruggen, a voucher proponent and deputy managing editor of the conservative National Review wrote, “To those of us who think legislators shouldn’t circumvent the democratic process and duck court scrutiny, however, the decision is bad news. Tax-credit voucher programs are a shell game that allows people to funnel their tax dollars to a controversial cause, all while legislators claim that those dollars aren’t really tax dollars at all, but “donations.” Everyone, including supporters of normal school vouchers — in which the government funds the vouchers directly — should oppose these efforts to pull the wool over voters’ eyes.” (National Review, April 11, 2011)

  • Oklahoma Parent Advocate, Erin Brewer wrote, “It seems that these Legislators feel compelled to support both public and private schools at the State level. Private schools operate of their own volition. They should remain autonomous entities free from State interference…Regardless, shouldn't the State seek to make its public schools the very best by giving them its sole focus and support?” (Don't Be Fooled by Tax Credit Semantics)

The end result of tax credit scholarships is the same as a voucher. Albeit in a more deceptive manner.

We shouldn’t be surprised. This is the same kind of game Oklahoma legislators played in 2017 with SB845 (‘If it looks like a duck’).

In that case our Oklahoma legislators passed an unconstituional tax by masking it as a “fee”. The Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed with everyone with common sense. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

Similarly, Scholarship Tax Credits are functionally the same as vouchers. The reason for the refusal to use the language of “Vouchers”? Likely because Oklahomans have opposed them strongly - every single time they are introduced.

In fact, when brought to a vote of the people - NO state has ever approved vouchers. It can only be shoved through by legislative malfeasance, games, and slight of hand.

And WHY? Why does all this matter? Because vouchers are NO good for 700,000 kids in public schools in Oklahoma. They end up hurting public education and are an attack on the ideals and purpose of public education as set forth in our State Constitution.