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Letters to the Times

Experimenting With Private School Vouchers

February 24, 2002

Ralph Neas is right to criticize vouchers for posing a threat to public schools and to those children who attend them ("Vouchers Hinder School Reform," Commentary, Feb. 20). First, vouchers coerce the taxpayer into paying for religion, something that Thomas Jefferson opined was "sinful and tyrannical." Second, they constitute a state takeover of religious schools and will inevitably result in added regulations and restrictions that will jeopardize the religious mission of those schools.

The notion that free choice only exists when it is subsidized by government makes a mockery of our heritage of freedom. Vouchers don't expand school choice, they threaten it.

Alan J. Reinach

President, Seventh-day

Adventist Church State Council

Westlake Village

*

Maybe Neas is right and maybe he is wrong. But nowhere does he explain why the decision about whether to experiment with school vouchers should be determined by the nine men and women of the Supreme Court and not the people of Ohio and their elected representatives. If Neas thinks that school vouchers are a bad idea, he should lobby the Ohio Legislature and convince the citizens of Ohio. Is that not how a democracy is supposed to work?

In 1932, Justice Louis Brandeis, one of the great liberal justices to serve on the Supreme Court, wrote: "There must be power in the states and the nation to remold, through experimentation, our economic practices and institutions to meet changing social and economic needs. . . . Denial of the right to experiment may be fraught with serious consequences to the nation. It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory, and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."

David B. Shemano

Los Angeles

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