by Seph Fischer ‘25
The current system of public education, in which money from tax paying adults is used to fund the public schools in their district, is often presumed to be the most logical solution which provides every student with access to high quality free education. What many people don’t realize is that there is a wide range of solutions to the issue of public education that remedy many of the issues the system faces. From vouchers to educational savings accounts, a variety of solutions exist that are not being used to their fullest potential in the United States, and especially in Maryland.
Many current culture wars are fought over public education. Only last year, the Florida state legislature passed the Parental Rights in Education bill, banning human sexuality education for grades kindergarten through third. The bill was slammed by progressive critics as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill which unfairly discriminated against homosexual and transgender individuals, while many on the right retorted that the bill simply protected the rights of parents. Debacles like this are only becoming more common, raising some obvious questions: Is it fair for those who do not agree with the political tone of their children’s education to pay for it via tax? Is it fair for those who are content with their district’s public education to have it constantly meddled with using their tax money? Would it not be better to allow each individual parent to use their taxes to fund the type of education they most agree with?
In recent years, school choice advocates have become increasingly vocal about their vision for American public education. Major victories have occurred as a result of advocacy from organizations like EdChoice in states such as Arizona, Wisconsin, and Vermont, including the implementation of systems like school vouchers. Under this system, parents can use their tax money which would usually go to public schools to fund tuition for their children to attend private schools. As a result, parents who are happy with their children’s education do not have to contend with other parents who insist on changes that they do not want. This doesn’t even begin to mention how school choice policies alleviate the struggles of students who don’t fit with traditional schooling. Under a strictly public educational system, parents of these students have to pay out of pocket for homeschooling materials and alternative courses in order to educate their children. The implementation of education savings accounts, though, resolves this issue. With education savings accounts, these parents can use their taxes which would normally be spent on public education to spend on educating their child– either on through alternative courses, homeschooling, or other educational opportunities.
Unlike states which have successfully enacted large scale school choice reforms, Maryland remains behind the pack in terms of school choice options. Ranking third to last in terms of state spending on school choice programs, Maryland only really has its BOOST program to show for itself. Only applying to low-income families, the BOOST program is neither broad in scope nor generous to those it does apply to — budgeted at only 0.76 percent of Maryland’s total public school expenditures.
Until statewide educational reforms are effectively implemented, Maryland families will continue to struggle with limited opportunities and an ever-intensifying culture war over how children are educated.