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Weighing in on Vouchers

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The Florida Supreme Court ruled Jan. 5 that one of the nation's highest-profile school voucher programs violates the state constitution's provision for a "uniform" system of public schools, and that the program "diverts public dollars into separate, private systems ... parallel to and in competition with the free public schools."

Voucher opponents praised the court's decision, claiming the state legislature will now be able to devote public dollars to improving public education, rather than subsidizing private alternatives. Others, like Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, argue that the decision sets a dangerous precedent, one that could deprive minority and inner-city students of the choice of better schools.

Are voucher programs unconstitutional? Do their potential benefits outweigh their cost to public school system uniformity?

5 Comments

No. Voucher programs are not (Federally) unconstitutional(Milwaukee and another were let stand by the US Supremes). The voucher system in Florida was ruled on by the Florida Supremes. If memory does not disserve me, this is the same state supreme court that, after the Bush v Gore election, with 7-0 and 4-3 decisions, attempted to rewrite Florida election law on the fly in Gore's favor. The US Supremes, on US Constitutional grounds, ruled 9-0 and 7-2 on that, telling the Fla Supremes that they could not do that, constitutionally. In the current voucher ruling, I don't believe that the decision is able to be appealed to the US Supremes since the case was decided, purely, by the Florida Supremes interpreting state law. Perhaps someone will find an insult to the US Constitution and "go for it", but I doubt it.

Anti-voucher spokesmen argued that the improvement process for poor performing public schools was being robbed of funds. Pro-voucher folks said that such improvements would, if they came at all, happen at a snail's pace and be too late for their special needs and excellent education deprived children. Now we will have a chance to watch and see how deliberately the newely available former "voucher dollars" are put to work to bring improvement to the schools which had been abandoned by frustrated parents of un-taught children. The proof will be in the increased performance, higher HS graduation #s and post HS employment/education of children of the non-rich who will, now, return to the schools they fled.

As a science teacher for over 30 years, and in the company of excellent teachers in my department, I never felt "threatened" by the idea of vouchers. I felt that my fellow teachers were experts in their fields. I invited parents to visit classes and science fairs and compare our performance with that of the nearby private schools. But that was only my personal experience.

Parental choice in education is one of the best solutions to authentic educational reform. Just as higher education provides for choice, so must K-12. A market driven system would generate change and open greater possibilities for all children. All parents want freedom to educate their children with a philosophy that supports their family values, beliefs and practices. Just like families want freedom to choose a nursing home, a career. or a place to live, families should have the right to use their tax money to support the school of thier choice. Data shows that private schools educate a wide range of culturally and economically diverse children and serve a good percentage of special needs children as well. If parental choice is not needed, then why is home schooling growing at such a rapid pace? This is my opinion.

I wish to correct an error in my posting above. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, and not the US Supremes, upheld the Milwaukee voucher system for private schools. The Florida case, Bush v. Holmes, by way of further elaboration, also, turned on State Constitutional interpretation and not the US Constitution. In Bush v. Holmes 5 of 7 Florida justices held against the 6 year old voucher law on the grounds that it violated the "uniformity" clause ot the state's constitution. The uniformity clause states that, a "..uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education." is mandated. That wording was actually part of a 1998 education amendment voted on by Floridians. The oral argument by voucher opponents' attorney in Bush v. Holmes centered on the uniformity aspect of the, above, clause and, specifically excluded success or failure of vouchers as irrelevant to the question of constitutionality.

I do not believe that the word "uniformity' has been ruled on by the higher courts for a definition and just intrepretation was used. There is a huge difference between intrepreted and ruling on meaning of the word. I just finished a project with regards to this issue and the Supreme Ct. I would think that consideration would have to be made regarding State Standards. Are state standards in the learnng objectives and are these objectives being met. Education is not an economic, marketable system!!!!!

I believe that a school voucher plan would be the best thing ythat could happen to our children. As it stands now , a child has to go the school in their neighborhood ,unless they choose to send them to a private school. If you saw the broadcast on 20 20. The educational system in Europe They use a voucher plan whereas if the school is not doing a good job of teaching the students the parents has the opportunity to transfer to another. The voucher would make our schools more competitive. I feel that we should no konger have ten year for teachers. They should keep there jobs based on performance not on how long they are at a particular school district.

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  • Betty Reading/ tutor/owner Fun with Phonics: I believe that a school voucher plan would be the read more
  • j Telman M.ED: I do not believe that the word "uniformity' has been read more
  • retired pub school Sci tchr: I wish to correct an error in my posting above. read more
  • Karin Klein, Administrator, Red Hill Christian School: Parental choice in education is one of the best solutions read more
  • retired pub school Sci tchr: No. Voucher programs are not (Federally) unconstitutional(Milwaukee and another were read more

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