Free Market Friday: Batting for children

June 5, 2015

Michael Carnuccio

The Oklahoma Supreme Court will soon decide the fate of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program, which allows parents of children with disabilities to send them to schools where they can get the best educational services. An influential voice has joined that debate, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Founded by Milton and Rose Friedman, two of America’s most eloquent advocates for personal liberty, the foundation filed a brief with the court urging it to uphold the constitutionality of the program. The case is an appeal of a prior ruling against the program by an Oklahoma County district judge.

Why is the education establishment so determined to scuttle this program? Simply put, they despise the idea of parents deciding where their children will attend school.

“The act thus gives back to parents some control of education previously monopolized by the state,” the foundation said in its brief.

The issue under contention is whether a portion of the taxpayer dollars allocated to educating a child can be deployed by the parents to send their child to a nonpublic school, even a religious school.

“Oklahoma’s constitutional language,” according to the brief, “was not intended to prevent the appropriation of public funds to sectarian institutions when the decision of where to distribute such funds is being made by parents, not the state.”

In other words, those tax dollars were ponied up by those parents to educate their children. When a public school district fails to deliver appropriate services, it is the right of the parents – the taxpayers – and not some anonymous bureaucrat, to decide what is best for the child.

“The court,” the foundation wrote, “can simultaneously maintain Oklahoma’s religious freedom and empower parents to better control their children’s education by upholding the Henry act.”

Last year 384 Oklahoma special needs children were enrolled in the program. They received a total of $2.9 million in funding from the taxes their parents had paid to educate them, and which they chose to deploy in schools other than the public schools in their home districts.

This is about what is best for kids, not bureaucrats. All Oklahomans should be grateful to the Friedman foundation for going to bat for Oklahoma children.