What is the “Libertarian Position” on School Choice? The short answer is that libertarianism supports the idea that the government should not be involved in your children’s education. If we had a magic wand that could waive all ties between the state and education, the majority of us would not hesitate to use it, but many are conflicted on the topic of school vouchers. Can the state party have a libertarian solution to educational funding, or should the official party position be to advocate for the abolishment of public education? What should WE be doing as a solution to socialist policies that pose as pro freedom bills, when in actuality they give whichever party is in charge an excuse to have more involvement in your life? Democrat or Republican, they believe that the government is the only entity that knows what is best for your children. Ultimately, every politician campaigns on “saving your children”, so where does it end?

We know that the duopoly holds their positions on education like a bargaining chip to get voters to the polls. “Vote for us if you want every child to have equal access to education”, “vote for us if you want your children to have the best education available”. When you get down to the details you can see that neither party has an original idea for how to improve the quality of your child’s education. 

This topic recently put a bee in Jacob Hornberger’s bonnet. Enough to put out a public notice to “School Choice Evangelist ” Corey DeAngelis asking for a debate. Which he declined, citing a similar debate opportunity later this year with Mises University. On his Substack Hornberger has often compared school vouchers to food stamps. He equates them both to central planning and encourages every Libertarian to avoid supporting any policy that comes with government ties. While many Libertarians agree to the idea of “letting go of socialism”, they also recognize that the government is never going to give up on taxation. If we are going to be taxed, we want the funds going to things like infrastructure, and the betterment of our communities, so for many Libertarians that starts with making sure that children are able to get a fair and quality education. 

2020 was an upset for everyone, and when centralized education already moves at a snail’s pace no one should be surprised by the fact that our children (and their families) had to figure out how to navigate a system that already had no idea what it was doing before they shut their doors to students. Central planning failed our children, and thousands of parents took notice. So why would Libertarians want to grasp at a different method of central planning when we are already winning this battle? The number of homeschooling families has never been higher, sitting around 6-7% of all k-12 students for the 2022/2023 school year (Pre pandemic the percentage was 3-4% in 2019). Charter and private school numbers are up significantly as well. Many people saw the failures in the public system and either never went back, or tried to go back and realized what they hated about it in the first place. Students aren’t the only ones leaving the system either, the need for teachers has gotten so high states like Florida have instituted policies that allow people who aren’t certified to teach easy loopholes to get in the door. Should the LPF position be to let the school system drown, putting students at risk, or should we turn a blind eye to a different form of centralization in order to make sure that “no child is left behind”? 

Let us now turn our attention to the direct threat to Florida Education, HB1 School Choice. Republicans will tell you that this bill is going to give 2.5 million children access to educational savings accounts, and that everyone from homeschoolers to public school children will have up to 7k towards the educational programs of their choice. Anyone who supports the privatization of education will scoff at the fact that private schools will have so many new requirements in order to keep up compliance that some will end up making their programs just as ineffective as public schools are now. Charter schools already bend over backwards to keep their subsidized funding, and this bill gives them an entirely new criteria to follow. Schools will be required to create a whole new model that shows progress for each student, instead of working on averages. While this sounds like students finally getting the personalized attention that they need, each facility will have to create their own system to track and record all of this. The only model for these schools to follow? The one that the public sector is creating right now. Florida law does not currently regulate private schools, HB1 changes that dramatically.

The group that is going to feel is the most and the least is the homeschool community. Right now a homeschool parent only needs to send in a letter of intent to homeschool and do an annual review with a teacher that proves “your child is making progress”. There are no testing requirements and a parent has every bit of control over curriculum and even their child’s diploma. HB1 does not touch that, unless you are one of the many families that needs this funding. Parents who request funding will be referred to a “Choice Navigator” who may or may not be homeschool positive instead of being able to hire an evaluator like a homeschooler who does not take state funding. This Choice Navigator will be granted permission by the state to override a parents educational plan if they find that it is not suitable for the child for any reason. Homeschoolers (particularly homeschoolers of children with special needs) will have to decide what is more important, taking state funding and allowing a state sponsored advisor control over their child’s placement in programs, or give up funding they are already receiving for programs and therapies they know their children need. No matter which way you slice it, unless you are completely out of the system as a homeschooler all families with school age children will feel the impact if this bill becomes law.

So where does that leave the LPF? Do we stand up for the homeschool and private community and advocate for them to re-write this bill? Should we then still allow public school students to be guinea pigs for this new system, knowing that the state will bend over backwards to spin the data to show that this model is working, even if it ends up failing our children? Do we ignore the pleas of the educational freedom fighters who know that “things roll downhill” and a school choice program like this will lead to incremental losses of freedoms? Is the best solution to advocate against this bill entirely, leaving children in a system that we already know is failing? 

We would like to hear from Libertarians in Florida about what they think of HB1, and the broader School Choice movement. So  here is the text for the bill. If you have anything you would like to speak on in regards to this bill, or this article, please email [email protected]. Your opinion just may end up in the next edition!