By Scott Tibbs, December 16, 2013
The Monroe County Community School Corporation recently asked the state for the names and addresses of students who are using vouchers to attend a private school, and the state denied their request. The Bloomington Herald-Times followed up by making a request of their own, leading to an editorial by H-T editor Bob Zaltsberg whining about the denial.
Why does the newspaper and the school system need the names and addresses of these students? Is it to open the parents who used vouchers to harassment? Does MCCSC want to find out if any MCCSC employees are using vouchers so they can be punished professionally?
The state should provide the number of students who got vouchers locally - and they do. The newspaper published those numbers on December 15. The state should also disclose the amount of money spent, and the money that MCCSC lost in funding due to vouchers.
However, there is no public good in publishing the names and addresses of school children who are attending a different school via the voucher program, which is what the Herald-Times wants to do. Pursuing this data is just plain creepy and a little scary, to be honest. It gets even more creepy and scary when you read the statement by MCCSC School Board member Sue Wanzer:
I think the state doesn't want to reveal it because they don't want to reveal that a lot of the people getting this money aren't necessarily the people that the vouchers were intended for.
The state has made a good case that we're going to make these vouchers available to poor people who can't afford private education, and I think what they're afraid people will find is that a lot of this money is going to middle class or upper middle class people who really could perhaps manage this tuition, but instead are opting to take the state money for a private education.
If the logic behind publicly revealing the names and addresses of school children is that we need accountability by tracking people who benefit from a government subsidy, then let's take that to its logical conclusion. Monroe County government's health insurance plan is self-funded. Does the public have the right to know about every medical procedure that has been covered by the county's health insurance? Should this also apply to Medicaid or Medicare? What about details of what people are buying with food stamps?
No one is forced to take food stamps, Medicaid or Medicare. No county employee is forced to sign up for health insurance. And that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what kind of sensitive information can be public record for the sake of fiscal accountability. That is where this "logic" leads. So make all of that public, right?
I oppose using vouchers for private schools, because of the potential for government meddling in the operation of private schools. This position is not helped by the childish and petty behavior of the Herald-Times and MCCSC. They should both drop this request and end this dangerous harassment.