Manassas Journal Messenger | Tax credits offer a good opportunity for school choice

I am fortunate. As a Libertarian I am driven more by principal then party-line rhetoric. And if you read my column regularly you know that I take Republicans to task quite frequently – and I have no problem doing so? being that I am a former Republican who left the party after became disillusioned with the incongruity between its words and actions.

Anyone who honestly thinks that the Republican Party truly believes in fiscal responsibility please contact me at [email protected], I have a bridge I would like to sell you. On the other hand I have as many complaints about Democrats and their position on most issues, one of the utmost being education.

For those who don’t know our history, Sunday columnist Denise Oppenhagen and I both ran against Michele McQuigg in 2001 for the 51st District House of Delegates seat. Denise ran under the Democratic ticket and I ran as a Libertarian. After reading her column this past Sunday I can’t help but ponder a couple of statements made by my esteemed colleague regarding education.

While I am no where near as familiar as she is with the funding mechanisms used to determine how schools receive varying amounts of money, I am quite familiar with government schools (I attended K-12 in Fairfax County) and many of my friends and family work in the Prince William and Fairfax school systems.

In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that I am a member of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State ( and personally believe in the abolishment of government schools.

Of course I am also a rational individual, who knows that the concept of a free market education system takes quite a bit of time and research to comprehend, and unfortunately most people just don’t have the time these days to learn how much more effective and efficient a free market education system would be, as well as the enormous benefits that would be derived from such a system.

In Sunday’s column, Ms. Oppenhagen states: “I believe that if parents want to send their children to private schools, terrific, but I should not have to subsidize their choice, just as I wouldn’t expect them to subsidize mine.” But isn’t that what we all do already?

It costs $7,000 per year to put children through the government system. And frankly I don’t know if that includes the cost of infrastructure, which I have heard is averaged at over $17,000 per child. This burden is placed on the backs of every citizen whether or not they have children. Basically I am forced to subsidize the children of those people who choose to bear them. So in effect, all parents who have children in the government school system expect others to subsidize them.

And I also wonder about “choice” in the context it is referred to when she says; “The Magnet School program in our county provides our families with school choice.” This seems reminiscent of Henry Ford offering customers his Model-T, which they could have it in any color they wanted? as long as it was black. Allowing a student to go to a magnet school is no different then the post office offering customers the option of sending mail from the Occoquan branch or the Woodbridge branch. They are both part of the same system, one just has more frills.

If the U.S. Post Office was so efficient and so inexpensive at delivering packages we wouldn’t need a UPS or Fed-Ex. But it isn’t. And that is why folks like me would like to see true options offered to parents who want to provide a better opportunity for their children. While Republicans want vouchers I believe there are too many strings that would undoubtedly be attached to them. I personally believe the only way to go is tax credits.

We don’t live in a free country. If we did then I wouldn’t be threatened with violence and incarceration if I refused to hand over my money so that those who are in power can distribute it to who they feel deserve it rather then letting me distribute it to who I feel deserves it. But if tax credits were an option we would be moving in the right direction as I and others would be permitted the choice of where our money goes for a child’s education.

James Simpson lives in Lake Ridge.

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