The Public Interest

Private schools, public schools, and the public interest

James S. Coleman

Summer 1981

THERE is not one private school policy issue today, there are two. Certain proposed policies would expand the role of private schools in American education or at least make it easier to attend them; other policies would inhibit their use. Thus, there is the unusual situation in which conflict is so strong that support exists for policies that would go in exactly opposite directions. The principal examples of policies that would aid private schooling are tuition tax-credit legislation at the federal level, such as the Moynihan-Packwood bill currently in the Senate, and tuition vouchers at the state level, such as the proposal designed for California by John Coons, Professor of Law at Berkeley. The principal examples of policies that would restrict private schooling are attempts by the Internal Revenue Service to impose some form of racial-balance criterion on private schools in order for them to maintain tax exempt status. Opponents of the first set of policies argue that those policies would destroy the public school system; opponents of the second set argue that those other policies would destroy the private school alternative to the public system. 

Download a PDF of the full article.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.