Of School Choice and Government-Run Swimming Pools

Responding to a letter I wrote, a letter in the Allentown Morning Call attempts to make the case that school vouchers are a bad idea—using the rationale that we need government-run swimming pools, but not swimming vouchers.

Boy, this is set up better than a dramatic Michael Phelps come-from-behind finish.

For starters, the author picked a terrible example—as few readers will consider swimming pools a core function of government, but part of the “yellow-pages” of government. Moreover, most “public” or municipal pools charge those going swimming a user fee. Obviously, that’s a bit different than public schools. I would add that with all the government funds going to private developments, including resort spas and hotels, and subsidies for housing, I would be surprised if taxpayers weren’t paying for private swimming pools.

Second, what if swimming at least 180 days per year was mandated, and children were required to swim in an approved pool, with severe limits and restrictions on any pool besides the one assigned by zip code? Would you still want to require children to swim only in government-run swimming pools?

Finally, the author’s reasoning “if you don’t like the public swimming pool, you can pay for membership at a private pool club, or even build your own pool,” is often that of those opposing school choice. That is, if you don’t like the government-run school, you can pay for your child’s private education. And if your child is assigned a failing or dangerous public school and you can’t afford a private alternative…well, too bad for you.

Not to be outdone, a number of school district employees who believe there is a conspiracy to destroy public schools talked to the Daily Item. I responded by explaining,

“It’s not about what kind of institutions we have,” he [Nathan Benefield] said. “It’s not that we need to destroy current institutions. It’s about what’s best for kids.”