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Down With Vouchers?

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Voters in Utah struck down the nation's first universal private-school voucher program in Tuesday's statewide election. The law, passed earlier this year by the Utah Legislature but then repealed during the referendum, would have given every public school student a taxpayer-funded voucher for private school tuition worth $500 to $3,000.

School choice supporters argue that vouchers will give families more educational options and force public schools to improve in a competitive environment. But opponents fear vouchers will drain much-needed money from public schools.

What do you think? What school choices should families have? Would vouchers harm public schools?

38 Comments

Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Education reported that the D.C. voucher program showed students performed no better on reading and math tests than their peers in public school. Even more telling was that the only exceptions were those students who had previously scored high in their own public schools. In Ohio, only one out of every five voucher students had attended a Cleveland public school just before they began receiving vouchers. Those students who did transfer out of public schools to enroll in voucher schools were much more likely to come from a high-performing public school, a magnet school, or a school with test scores better than the district average. Not one of the schools losing the most students to vouchers was from any of the lowest scoring schools in the Cleveland Public Schools. This is insane. Weren't these the children for whom this experiment was intended? Finally, one out of every three participants had already been enrolled in private school the year prior to becoming a voucher student. Most of the rest entered in kindergarten. Ok, help me out here. How does a child, who has never stepped foot in a public school and, therefore, has never been classified as underachieving, get a voucher to attend a private school in order to remedy her underachievement in said public school... which she never attended? By the year 2014, the year NCLB and George Bush promise 100 percent of public school students will be proficient in their subjects and the achievement gap closed, the state of Ohio (aka: its taxpayers) will have spent more than four billion dollars ($4,000,000,000) on vouchers and charter schools. That's a lot of money being spent on students who were already testing high in their own public school or who scored no better at their new school. That's a lot of money being spent on what voucher and charter school advocates consistently state as the number one reason for such programs, parental choice. This in turn, as the theory goes, will drive achievement up. The problem is, those choosing and those needing are not one and the same and, therefore, achievement has remained flat(can you say NAEP). Vouchers and charter schools are doing nothing, repeat nothing, to close the achievement gap in this country. Only when class sizes of urban public schools are reduced and certified tutors placed in each of those classrooms, will the achievement gap really begin to close. The billions spent on political scams and money makers like vouchers and charter schools would be better spent on smaller classes.

Dear Mr. Xavier,

I only want the opportunity for all Americans that Hillary Clinton gave her child. The fact is that the middle class and up have always had the benefit of a private education. It is the poorest in our society that are consigned by gov't mandate to the worst education.

Thank God Mr Hargraves' argument is at least logical. We certainly don't need politics compounding matters anymore than they already have.

The reason that government won't give money to families for education is that there are families who have higher needs than education and they will not spend those dollars on education. And as to the rest of the arguement, children are exposed to the "real world" in school with the differing populations that exist in our current schools. I feel that one of the most important benefits of school is that the child gets exposed not only to people that he can get along with, but also with people that he cannot, and with abrasive personalities. If the child can handle school with all the differing personalities, then he will be able to function better in the real world and in a real job setting. By keeping the children in a private school setting, with limited exposure to the real world, how are we preparing them to function in it. Yes, you have bureaucrats in the school system and you have one size fits all classes, but you also have teachers that go above and beyond. They may not be the norm, but that is not the norm in all walks of life no matter the area. Why is it that teachers and education are always the scapegoats for decisions that some bureaucrat makes in Washington. Lets get out and vote and make wise decisions instead of blaming the education system for the mistakes.

Thank you for your response to my post Robert. I disagree with you strongly.

1. By not allowing families to spend their own dollars on an educational setting of their choosing, you are basically saying poor parents aren't smart enough / motivated enough / or plain just don't care about their children. I think that's awful. And, even if I was willing to except this faulty premise, you would basically be saying that 80% of families should have the right to receive vouchers from the government, since they are above the poverty line and presumably not at risk of spending their dollars "unwisely."

2. If we had a voucher system, there is no reason you couldn't choose a school that had a "mix" of people. You don't have to choose a homogeneous setting. You can find a school with "abrasive" kids. Besides, the system right now is anything but diverse. Neighborhood schools tend to employ people of similar economic/social background. I taught in DC and the school was 100% poor and African American. Again, you're basically saying that other parents shouldn't be allowed to send their kid to a setting of their own choosing. You want the government to decide where they have to go, who they must associate with, what curriculum they must learn. I just don't believe in that kind of social engineering. I believe in freedom.

3. You admit that schools have a one-size-fits-all structure, but you're willing to put up with it. I wonder if you developed that habit in school. After 12+ years of doing what you're told by a position of authority, you've learned to just go with the flow. I don't know...it seems a bit sad to me.

4. Don't you find it interesting that politicians don't send their own children to public schools. Hillary Clinton and George Bush love public schools...that's why they sent their own children to elite private institutions beginning in grade school. Standardized, factory schooling for the masses - personalized learning for the elite.

The real reason people are against vouchers is simply for job protection. Nobody wants to tell 3.7 million teachers (and the administrators, union officials, bureaucrats, ect) that their jobs are now open to the free market.

Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex. What about the education-industrial complex?


Matt - I COULDN'T AGREE WITH YOU MORE!!! I will add one story to make a point about NCLB, which private schools are thankfully NOT bound to. When I taught in a public high school, I had to teach the kids about stem and leaf plots because it was on the test. In more years than I care to admit as an undergraduate and graduate student in electrical engineering, physics, and math, and using these skills for more than a decade as a technical professional, I *NEVER* knew what a stem and leaf plot was, nor needed to know what a stem and leaf plot was, until I had to teach it for the test. That time could have been used to develop more useful problem-solving skills, and that's just one example!

Wow! I gotta hand it to Matt and Cheryl. Their powers to persuade are incredible. Let's review their arguments for the use of vouchers.
1. I believe in freedom(Matt).
2. I never used a stem and leaf plot in my line of work(Cheryl).

I guess we can move on to the next question.

Michael,

I hope your students summarize arguments better than you do.

I invite you to address both of my posts and really explain what is faulty in my thinking. Read them again, then tell me why I'm wrong.

Matt,
I se only one post.

You're right...it appears my original post was removed. I'll try to recap what I said.

Why do we need public schools? Seriously. Why can't each state allocate x dollars for each student? Families could then choose an educational setting that they believe is in the best interest of their own child.

For example, if I really believe in a back-to-basics, core curriculum I could send my child to that school. Conversely, if I want a completely personalized environment where my child is free to study any topic of her choosing at her own pace, I could choose that as well. Then, there would be the entire range in between. Some schools could decide to focus on sciences, others could be music conservatories, others could teach you a trade, others could be Montessori, others might want to homeschool ect...Personally, I would choose an environment without one-size-fits all curriculum standards, but I realize many other parents wouldn't be comfortable with this. The great thing about choice is that no one is forced into an environmental setting they're uncomfortable with.

The point is that families could choose what they believe to be best for their own child. Even better, if a school isn't working, the parent can switch to a different environment. Right now, kids are trapped. If the school doesn't work for a kid, tough. I just think that's terrible.

I think vouchers are great for teachers as well. Teachers could either start or find schools that match their own teaching philosophies. In this way, a teacher won't ever have to do something she finds morally objectionable. For instance, a teacher who doesn't believe in standardized tests could work at a school where none are given. A teacher that doesn't believe in progressive education could find a more conservative setting.

The way I see it: it's a win for families, it's a win for teachers, and most of all it's a win for kids.

We have to be willing to give up our impulse to control others...and that's hard. But if we truly want people to be happy, live their dreams, and be independent, we have to be willing to give others the freedom and dignity to make their own life decisions. Few decisions are more important, and personal, then how to raise your own child.

Matt - "it appears my original post was removed"
Wow, how did that happen????? It was excellent!

Michael - you are apparently quite passionate about topics on education. I suspect you have useful ideas, but you seem to be more intent on picking fights than expressing them. Why?

Wow. I think I'm gonna cry. Perhaps next time Matt writes he can explain why we need vouchers in the first place( minus the stuff about dreams, being happy, freedom, dignity and life decisions).When I need that I can always watch reruns of George Bush on you-tube.

In the meantime, with facts please, someone tell me why the private school down the street will raise the achievement level of a child failing the 3rd grade state test in reading and math.

Michael,

We need vouchers because one size does not fit all. Children are individuals and should be treated as such. Do you disagree with this?

I'm not sure where you're coming from, as you don't add any points when you post. I don't think freedom, dignity, and living your dreams are a joke. Why do you?

You seem to have legitimate concerns about the struggling student and I am guessing you feel bullied by school choice proponents as a scapegoat for student failure. I wish you didn't take it as a personal attack.

I too worry about struggling students, but I think the system itself creates them. We age group kids, cut them off from real world experiences outside the school, deny them choices in their learning, give them silly memorization tests, and then put them in special education when they're not making the desired progress. The individual teachers aren't the problem. They're busting their butts in a flawed environment. The real problem is the system on which we've structured our schools.

And it's not just public schools. Many private schools do this as well.

If school was personalized to the individual, (individualized curriculum, self-pacing, real world learning outside the walls of a classroom) and we didn't have meaningless state achievement tests that suck the joy out of learning, then perhaps the need for vouchers wouldn't be as strong. However, in general, I believe that things tend to work best when we reduce regulation, allow for innovation, and trust people to make decisions for themselves.

Michael you may be interested in taking a look at a consortium of public schools started in Rhode Island by Dennis Littky that really provides real choice to families and students. These students create their own projects, don't attend formal "classes," and are engaged in their own learning. It's really an amazing story. Unfortunately, they face so many bureaucratic hurdles.

Check them out. www.bigpicture.org Mr. Littky has also written a phenomenal book called The Big Picture. It really shaped my own opinions as a teacher.

Unfortunately, Dennis can't change the system for 99.9% of the public school kids in America who are trapped in their local one-size-fits-all schools. But vouchers can.

Going back to your original question. Whatever is happening at your school isn't working for your third grader. That doesn't mean you personally are doing something wrong. It just means that the environment isn't bringing out his/her best.

Why shouldn't she have a chance to try something else?

If demanding facts relevant to the issue to back up an argument for vouchers translates to some as "picking fights" then I plead guilty as charged. On the other hand, like the child who throws a temper tantrum because dad refuses to give in on his insistence for the truth in the face of obfuscation from his son, perhaps the one fighting is not I and could be avoided altogether with the truth(otherwise known as facts).

Wow...Michael, Matt has given you a great opportunity for a good debate. All you give is a bunch of angry dribble....i'm glad your not teaching my kid. Typical liberal..

Thanks for the compliment, Jay. You really shouldn't have, though. And thanks, also, for clearing up firsthand what angry dribble is. Life would be so much easier if everything were so self-explanatory as your comments.

Look, I'd like the choice to join the private country club across town for free but they're not going to let me. First, and most importantly, there is nothing wrong with the public courses in the area. Secondly, joining the country club isn't going to make me a better golfer. Do you(or Paul, Cheryl or Matt) understand what I'm saying here? Ok, maybe not.

What exactly will the private school down the street do to raise achievement of an elementary student who is failing the state reading and math tests? For instance, are the private school teachers more highly qualified? Do they have more teachers who are certified? Feel free to back up your arguments with facts. You can find loads of data online at Common Core of Data, NCES and numerable other data sites regarding both public and private schools.

Finally, please refrain from dribble about "one size fits all" kind of schooling in your defense of vouchers. There is more differentiating of instruction in public schools than in the vast majority of private schools. Also, please refrain from pointing out private schools where nearly 100 percent graduate and go on to college. These are students who were succeeding all along. This conversation is about the use of vouchers for children stuck in the achievement gap(two or more years below grade level). Let's try and keep our eyes on the ball.

The Liberal Dribbler:)

I thought that the connection between my concrete example and the contextual meaning was obvious, but I'll clarify it. Public schools are bound by NCLB to assess achievement with a test, which puts public school teachers under pressure to teach to that test regardless of whether or not the items on the test are useful in college or the working world. That leaves little time for teaching *useful* skills. Private schools are not bound by NCLB. Therefore teachers may use the time more productively, and as an added bonus are free to use more complete and appropriate assessment tools than "the test". In golfing terms, the public golf course is paved, has a net in the middle, and is surrounded by a locked fence, while the public golf course has greens and hills and holes.

There is another benefit to private schools. Obviously, children who are in private schools or would be if their parents could get vouchers have the powerful advantage of parents who care about their education. Some of the children who are in public schools are at a huge disadvantage because their parents don't care. More than anyone else, those students need teachers who are the cream of the crop. Consider a teacher who can make the best use of classroom time and make a difference in those students' lives, and who WANTS to do so. Consider another teacher who spends the bulk of the schoolday blogging on the internet. In a public school, the funds for the effective teacher are tied up because the union makes it impossible to fire the blogger, so the at-risk students who deserve the best teacher are stuck with a blogger. A private school is not bound by union beaurocracy, and can fire the blogger.

In the name of facts, I met a 5 year old girl who reads as fluently as an adult. In our school district, "differentiation" means that they paid for her to take a dance class after she sat through learning the alphabet in Kindergarten. While there is no guarentee that a private school would do better, vouchers would at least give her parents a chance to look for a school that would be willing to try.

" In the name of facts, I met a five year old girl who reads as fluently as an adult." Wow! We could have an entire discussion on this one comment alone by Cheryl. First, She and I obviously have a different understanding of what constitutes a fact. Secondly, she is absolutely correct in that there is no guarantee that a private school would do any better. Finally, vouchers were created, at least ostentatiously, to help low performing students climb out of the achievement gap. A five year old reading like an adult probably doesn't fit the bill.

The remainder of Cheryl's remarks are as equally absurd. She seems to be saying that the tests themselves are creating the low achievement and that vouchers will remove students from such a calamity(maybe someone should tell Cheryl that the achievement gap was here before NCLB). It seems, also, as if she is saying that private school teachers would raise achievement in students of equal ability. That's just a ridiculous idea. There is absolutely no evidence that happens and all the evidence in the world that it does not. Why would someone just make something up like that. To cement her point she writes that, "Public golf courses are paved and locked while the private ones are green and hilly."What in God's name does that mean?

Lastly, we're told that the achievement gap is a condition of " teacher bloggers". Yes, it's true. Public school teachers sit at the computer instead of teaching. Private school teachers ......... don't. It's simply that easy.

It's been almost 25 years since "A Nation at Risk" warned us of the achievement gap. Twenty five years from now when it still persists, look to the reasoning of the Cheryl's of the world and you'll understand why.

I'll depart from this discussion and try to answer the questions directly:

What school choices should a family have? In the novel "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," Francie's father takes her out of her dismal school in an impoverished area of the city, walks a few blocks to the better part of town, and enrolls her in an excellent public school where Francie blossoms. He accomplishes this by giving a false address. This is what my mother did for me when I lived in Brooklyn in the 1940s, about the time of the novel. She enrolled me in the public school of her choice and gave my grandmother's address.

I am certain that people are still doing this today because my friend allowed her relative to use her address to get her son into a well-regarded high school in an affluent California city. However, it was illegal in the 1940's and still illegal now but why should it be? This is the kind of choice I would hope to see: inter and intra-district choice.

Will vouchers harm public schools? How a person answers this question probably depends greatly on his view of the public schools. To me, they are one of our greatest institutions; the bedrock of our democracy. Like many, if not most Americans, I was very satisfied with my own public school education and that of my sons. My grandchildren attend a wonderful school in a lovely California town where the teachers seem excellent and the parents contribute much time and money. I believe that our public schools are partly responsible for the fact that our citizens are among the most creative and productive in the world. The United States is first in business, law, medicine, science, technology, the arts, and graduate school education. People in other countries look at our adult productivity and not our fourth grade test scores. Japan and China are presently studying our educational system because they understand how successful we have been in educating the majority of our citizens. Why would we want to hurt an institution that has done so much for so many of us?

So naturally I don't support anything that would weaken our public schools. Vouchers would do for K-12 what they did for college students: fly-by-night academies would sprout all over the place with owners reaping huge profits and students left with useless diplomas. Taxpayers would be defrauded of millions of dollars. Storefronts would proliferate and academies for this and that religion would spread across the country, separating children by race, religion and class as they do in many countries that have vouchers. Everyone with a little money or talent would go to voucher schools while the public schools would be for the poor and the disabled. Do we want this for the United States?

Vouchers would also hurt one of our most important ideals: to educate our students to live in a democracy. To further this ideal, we must continue to make our public schools a place where all kinds of children can learn to get along with one another.

That said, I know that way too many children are stuck in low-achieving schools. These students have a right to choose a good school just as more privileged children do. For them I support public school charters and public school choice. Private and parochial schools should be encouraged to provide more scholarships to help these children. Americans are a generous people; many of us donate to private or religious schools, but we want our tax dollars going to public schools.

Choice, yes; vouchers, no.

Linda,

Thank you for your comments. It's fascinating because while we seem to be in agreement that choice "works," we reach different conclusions about what this should mean for public policy.

Thank you for bringing up the college comparison. I think our colleges are an excellent example for why vouchers work. We basically employ a voucher system right now, allowing students choice in where they attend school with the government providing subsidized loans to cover the costs. The rest of the world loves our university system and sends their best and brightest to study here. Because we have competition and choice, our universities flourish.

Imagine if we treated our universities like public schools. What if we required all students to take the same courses with the same syllabi, to take uniform standardized tests, and to only attend a college in their "neighborhood." What a disaster!

I also appreciate your comments that America leads the world in "business, law, medicine, science, technology, the arts." You are right. However, if you look at the leaders in these fields, the real innovators and decision makers, they almost uniformly attended non public schools. Consider politicians in some of our most recent elections: they almost uniformly attended private or boarding schools. Public schools don't seem to be the great equalizers we hold them up to be.

I agree with you that we want schools to educate children to live in a democracy, but how are we doing it? Children today have no choice in what they learn, when they learn, how they learn, or where they learn. We treat them as widgets in a factory line, never stopping to ask them what they want. Education is done "to them." How can we expect young people to grow into mature decision makers if the only decisions we allow them to make are who will be this year's homecoming king?

My priority is personalizing school. I see vouchers as the fastest route to that path, but it's not the be all end all.

I would support a system (even public) where beginning at age ten-twelve, students stopped going to school in the formal sense, but instead did most of their learning out in the wider community, guided by personal interests and individual accountability. Basically, merging school and the real world.

For instance, why don't we ask a ten year old what he / she wants to learn? Suppose she says cars. The teacher could then arrange an internship where for 2-3 days per week she interns alongside adult mentors learning how to fix cars for the entire day. Without other children. Then another day of the week, she could volunteer in some capacity of her choice, maybe recording books on tape for blind children, or organizing a community-wide canned food drive. This would only leave 1-2 days for "classroom" time in which the student would individually study math, reading, writing, ect...as it relates to her internships and volunteer experiences.

The idea here is to ask kids what they want to learn about, match them with successful mentors in the community, give them heaping does of real responsibility, and let their own passions and curiosities be their guide. The role of the teacher would be to find out what her students want to learn and then leverage the resources of the community. The teacher would be a facilitator.

At the end of nine weeks, the child could continue learning more about cars, or switch and study another field. By the time she finished high school, she would know much more about her own interests and dislikes, she would have substantial practice making decisions and handling responsibility, she would be comfortable in the adult world, and be able to make an informed decision about her next step.

This type of education would be very inexpensive, would excite children and teachers, and would be completely personalized. Of course, this type of education is completely illegal in public schools due to the standards movement and its natural byproduct: the testing movement.

Public schools are only about 200 years old. Prior to that, people learned primarily through apprenticeships and real world experience. In the 200 years since, income inequality has grown signficantly. Entrepreneurship is down. Democratic participation is down. Reading is down. All of this despite pumping money into the system and requiring more stringent teacher requirements.

It's not a teacher problem and it's not a money problem. It's a system problem. We need to put children and families back in the driver's seat.

Public schools were never designed to bring out the best in the invdividual. They were designed to provide obedient workers for the industrial age.

Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, said the following to the New York City School Teachers Association in 1909: "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." Today's public schools are a byproduct of this effort.

I believe this is wrong and immoral. I believe school should serve the individual. I believe the needs and desires of the individual should come before the priorities of the national economy.

I come out on the side of individual freedom. I want each child to become his/her personal best. It starts by asking the individual: what do you want to learn and how can I help you?

Yes, we are all in agreement that students should have choice, but there are different ways to bring this about.

In my state there is a very high correlation between class, race, ethnicity, and the different levels of higher education. The rich kids go to Stanford or other "first tier" colleges (Harvard, Princeton, etc.). The children of the professional class (doctors, lawyers,teachers) go the the University of California, the children of the working class go to the state university system and the community colleges and the poor often go to fly-by-night "technical institutes" ("give us $5000 for six months and we'll get you a job working in a doctor's office"). We've all seen the ads. The student is left with huge loans and no marketable skills and the taxpayer is often left holding the bag. Thankfully the government is pulling the plugs on these programs. If you walk onto the campus of UCLA, you will see many Asians and whites. If you visit any community college or "technical institute" you'll see many minorities who are struggling just to attend. Of course, there are impoverished kids who make it to Berkeley and privileged kids who get a great education at the community college (including my older son) but in general there is a serious class distinction that most people are aware of. When my older son matriculated at Stanford for his graduate work, a sociologist interviewed him and asked, "What do your parents do?" When my son replied, "My father's a mathematician and my mom's a teacher," the researcher said, "Yeah, you and 99% of all the other students at this school." When I accompanied my younger son to Harvard, all the parents seemed to be doctors, lawyers, businessman etc. My son's black roommate was the son of a librarian. They both told me that there were very few poor kids at the school. When a poor kid did attend Dartmouth, a journalist wrote a book about it (" A Hope in the Unseen"). I absolutely loved that book. The author won a Pulitzer for the New York Times articles that preceded it. It gives us all a badly needed glimpse into how difficult it is for a very disadvantaged student to get an education good enough to get him into a first-rate university.

I suppose this class distinction is inevitable at the college level but do we want to start this separation at the elementary and high school levels? This would have the effect of separating rich and poor from the very beginning. (Yes, I know this happens anyway for many children, but a significant number still attend schools with various classes of people.) Certainly my sons and I did.

I do not support forcing children to attend neighborhood schools. As I said, I would like to see inter and intra-district transfers with transportation provided for low-income students. In this way, the parent who wants something better for her child could choose a school way across town and enroll him there. This, too, would create competition. I also agree that public schools should provide different kinds of schools. Thus the parents who want a school that is child-centered, where a child can choose his own projects, would be able to find such a school in every city. This is the purpose of charters. Yes, the testing movement has completely squelched this type of education; I definitely agree with that. But this too shall pass.

Woodrow Wilson was probably paraphrasing Plato, who said about the same in his Republic. There will always be elitists who believe that a liberal education is for the future rulers while the masses need to be prepared for low-level stuff (as in No Child Left Behind) but most educated people understand that we need to educate everyone to exist in a global economy. (See Thomas Friedman's ideas on education in The World Is Flat.)

The public schools certainly brought out the best in my own children. They (schools) have made a great contribution to our country and to me personally. I am passionate about them and will do all I can to preserve and improve them for future generations.

I suppose I'm not as optimistic as you that the standards movement will pass. Today's charter schools are still required to teach the same curriculum as "regular" public schools and are held accountable through testing.

The only freedom charter schools have is in administrative affairs. They do not have freedom is curriculum.

There may be some schools that deviate, but that is only because their students are enormously advantaged in the first place and pass the state exams regardless of having a teacher or not.

Middle and lower income kids in charter schools are still required to follow the same one-size-fits-all model.

The best way to have accountability is to allow parents the freedom to choose schools. Schools that don't deliver what parents want will be forced to change or close.

Vouchers should not be given, but choice should be. It's time for those who choose to home school or attend private schools are exempt from shool taxes and mandatory attendance. Mandatory attendance speaks volumes about the bad quality to which someone is forced to attend.

Vouchers in the long run will save money. If a student is given a voucher to go to a private school, the money given to that student will be less than the money the district will spend to educate that student in the public school, therefore the district will have a surplus of money to spend on those students who attend the public school. The parents of those students in private school will be paying the education tax for public schools as well as private school tuition. The district will still get their money and hopefully use the money to improve the education in the public schools. Also the overcrowding in public schools will be eleviated if the students had a "choice". It is a win, win situation all around.

Vouchers remind me of the "white flight" phenomenon" When there's trouble in the neighborhood, flee. Don't stay and fight, flee. This is a selfish way of handling the problems of changing populations that some suburban school districts find themselves in. All of our Christian principles are put on hold when it comes to taking care of "me, myself, and I" How much better our Country would be if we could embrace those less fortunate than ourselves as they(poor families) struggle to educate their children in a wholesome, effective, and nurturing learning environment.

Robby, I don't think the white flight phenomenon is a fair comparison.

Vouchers allow for a diversity of schooling options. If I stay and "fight," then I am trying to impose my idea of an ideal education on everyone else's children. As a mentioned in an earlier post, some parents may want a strong core curriculum, others may want an arts focus, others may want a technical/trades-based focus, others may want school completely personalized to the interests of the child.

The standards and testing movements are one version of education: popular with many parents. I happen to disagree with it. That doesn't mean all parents should have to accept my version of schooling: personalized (no uniform standards) and authentic assessments (work / community service.)

I propose that everyone choose the option they believe is best for them.

Those against vouchers are saying there is one way to school all children. I don't believe this. I suggest vouchers are the best way to allow for a diversity of opinions and schooling options to flourish.

We shouldn't be afraid to allow others to make decisions about how to live their own lives.

In reading the comments, I failed to see any mention of what vouchers and school choice would mean for rural school districts. I agree that the current system is not ideal, but I have not seen a solution that benefits all of our nation’s students.
A voucher for private schools seems almost humorous to me as the nearest private school is over two hours away. Then we have school choice. In this area, most towns are twenty or more miles away and they offer similar curriculum. In reality there is little choice for our students. They must be educated here.
I am appalled by the proponents for vouchers who insinuate that schools will work harder when students have a choice. We struggle with antiquated technology, dilapidated buildings, limited staff, and low SES. It is our schools and students that need assistance, not exit strategies. In my estimation, the voucher issue is just a method of deepening the division in America, not overhauling the system.


I agree with the statement about poor parents should be allowed to use vouchers for their child.

On the other hand, I believe that vouchers should be distributed equally to high achievers and low achievers.

Thus, this resulted in equality among the selection process of students who would like to attend private schools.

Educators will have incentive to open schools in rural communities once voucher $ is available.

I don't think we need government involved in public school administration at all. We can still support the American dream by having public financing of education. The government can continue to allocate x dollars per student, but each family will have discretion as to how that money is spent.

This is from a column written by Walter Williams, a professor at George Mason University. I think it explains in simple terms why choice is best.


"I like the Lexus LS 460. I also like Dell computers. Many other people have a different set of preferences. Some might prefer a Cadillac and an HP computer while others prefer a Chrysler and IBM computer. With these strong preferences for particular cars and computers, we never see people arguing or fighting in an effort to impose their preferences for cars and computers on other people. There's car and computer peace. Why? You buy the car and computer that you want; I do likewise and we remain friends.


There's absolutely no reason for car and computer choices to remain peaceful. Suppose our car and computer choices were made in the political arena through representative democracy or through a plebiscite where majority ruled. We would decide collectively whether our cars would be Lexuses or Cadillacs or Chryslers. We also would decide collectively whether our computer would be a Dell or HP or IBM computer.


I guarantee you there would be nasty, bitter conflict between otherwise peaceful car and computer buyers. Each person would have reason to enter into conflict with those having different car and computer tastes because one person's win would necessarily be another person's loss. It would be what game theorists call a zero-sum game. How would you broker a peace with these parties in conflict? If you're not a tyrant, I'm betting you'd say, "Take the decision out of the political arena and let people buy whatever car and computer they wish."

Prayers in school, sex education and "intelligent design" are contentious school issues. I believe parents should have the right to decide whether their children will say a morning prayer in school, be taught "intelligent design" and not be given school-based sex education. I also believe other parents should have the right not to have their children exposed to prayers in school, "intelligent design" and receive sex education.

The reason why these issues produce conflict is because education is government-produced. That means there's either going to be prayers or no prayers, "intelligent design" or no "intelligent design" and sex education or no sex education. If one parent has his wishes met, it comes at the expense of another parent's wishes. The losing parent either must grin and bear it or send his child to a private school, pay its tuition and still pay property taxes for a school for which he has no use.

Just as in the car and computer examples, the solution is to take the production of education out of the political arena. The best way is to end all government involvement in education. Failing to get government completely out of education, we should recognize that because government finances something it doesn't follow that government must produce it. Government finances F-22 Raptor fighter jets, but there's no government factory producing them. The same could be done in education. We could finance education collectively through tuition tax credits or educational vouchers, but allow parents to choose, much like we did with the GI Bill. Government financed the education, but the veterans chose the school.

Government allocation of resources enhances the potential for human conflict, while market allocation reduces it. That also applies to contentious national issues such as Social Security and health care. You take care of your retirement and health care as you please, and I'll take care of mine as I please. If you prefer socialized retirement and health care, that's fine if you don't force others to participate. I'm afraid most Americans view such a liberty-oriented solution with hostility. They believe they have a right to enlist the brute forces of government to impose their preferences on others.

This discussion is interesting, but I am troubled by the assumption of so many that a choice system will deliver meaningful choice to middle and lower class students.

I believe that truly honest school principals, whether in public or private schools, would admit that they would like to select their students, and those schools that are able to do so use a variety of methods to encourage and discourage the students they do and do not want to serve. A market-based system will only increase the pressure on schools to discriminate among applicants to satisfy the discriminatory expectations of their other parents/customers.

I support public school choice because there are at least some laws that give students rights to fair and equal treatment as an applicant. But if you look at the fine print of most private voucher proposals, there are special provisions that protect the right of the private school to maintain their authority to select applicants and use all manner of techniques to dissuade a parent from sending his or her child to their school if the child many not fit in.

Need transportation? Not available. Need special education services? Forget it. Don't want to pray with us? No way.

Private school choice appears to be about parents choosing their school. In reality, I think it means private school access to public finding while continuing to filter out the student who is different or difficult to educate.

"This is a selfish way of handling the problems of changing populations that some suburban school districts find themselves in." I'm not generally so selfish on my own behalf, only when it comes to my children.

Amy, an overhaul of the system is so long overdue, and I've become cynical enough to doubt that it will happen in my lifetime. It's certainly not going to happen in time for my kids, in the meantime vouchers are a small step toward better options.

I am so happy to see that at least the public in Utah has the sense to see through this much touted "voucher" system. It is simply a means of people who want their children in private schools which do not have to meet the same standards as the public schools, and they want the funds from public education to pay for it. Maybe the citizens of Utah should become the leaders in our fight for a free PUBLIC education for ALL.

Remember, these vouchers do not guarantee that the school will allow the children to stay. Unlike the public schools which must provide for and keep students with bad behavior problems in them, the charters and "voucher" schools do not follow this precept. They do wait until the state monies are paid, however, and then kick the students back to the public schools which in turn, don't get that money back to educate the child. Guess who keeps it?? The "voucher" school.

I am personally fearful that the educational system which provides for all is going to be reduced to one in which only the very poor will go, and other, more privileges will attend private institutions being paid for with Public funds.


I agree completely with Judith K. Nador. It is imperative that we keep a public school system that is open to ALL children. Kudos to the citizens of Utah for recognizing our need to preserve a great institution.

Georgia Desperately Needs more school options!

We went from 48 out of all the states to 47

Woo Hoo!

If public schools are available to ALL students, then why fear a voucher? If public schools provide a better education, then won't parents choose your (public school), then you will have your students.

There are many schools that are out there to help students. If the parents are choosing then what is public education afraid of?

Evidently there is more fear out there than anything else.

Vouchers would be fine if and only if the schools that children attended using said vouchers also had to take the SAME tests as the so-called failing schools. I used to administer CTBS tests and our state's test. Trust me, the state test was much harder.
It is counter-intuitive to use the NCLB test data to send students to schools that are not measured in the same way. If public money is used, then the schools can't refuse anyone, must provide services as dictated by the federal standards, and must satisfy the stringent standards of NCLB assessment requirements.

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