published Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

School vouchers fail public

Public schools in Hamilton County — indeed, in all of Tennessee — must improve if students are to compete in a world where a sound, broad-based education is the prerequisite for well-paying jobs that allow men and women to lead productive lives and to provide for their families. Such improvement has been slow to arrive. Supporters of taxpayer-funded private school vouchers believe they have a remedy for current problems. They are short-sighted — and wrong.

Voucher programs might sound good, but they are flawed. Proponents assume that public vouchers for private school tuition would allow worthy students to find places in private schools that have demonstrated an ability to provide a superior education. That contention is not grounded in fact.

The state has a finite amount of taxpayer funds to spend on education. If funds are appropriated for vouchers, the money will be drained from the amount designated for public schools, which already struggle to provide basics on a severely limited budget. Additional reductions — for vouchers or anything else — will lead to additional hardships for public schools and the students attending them. That’s unfair to taxpayers and schools. Some even suggest that taxpayer support of private schools through vouchers is a form of taxation without representation. They’ve got a point.

Voucher supporters ignore the case made against them. They blindly contend that vouchers are a sure-fire way to provide kids with a better education. Such pie-in-the-sky reasoning is unsupported by fact-based research.

A voucher system would cherry-pick the brightest and most motivated students — and rob schools of their parents’ support — leaving most other students and their families in public schools with a dearth of public-funded support.

Moreover, most highly respected private schools have full classrooms. They are unlikely to accept vouchers which probably would not cover the full cost of a private-school education. So either their parents would have to pony up the difference — creating an effective subsidy for private schools — or voucher-holding students would have to seek a place in lower-rated schools. That’s no guarantee of the better education promised by voucher advocates.

The current political campaign in many instances pits mostly pro-voucher Republicans against mostly anti-voucher Democrats. A better option would be for current and would-be legislators and public officials to unite in common pursuit of goals that would improve the lot of all students rather than a few that might benefit from vouchers.

The mission of public schools remains crucial and viable — to instill knowledge and skills so students can think creatively, and compete for jobs that pay good wages and provide benefits that allow them to support families and to have an improved quality of life.

Vouchers won’t provide that for all. Public schools that have improved resources, better parental and community support and programs to combat the crime and other urban tensions detrimental to learning have a chance to do so.

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LaughingBoy said...

Better parental support > More resources (throwing money at the problem, often). Look at DC.

October 3, 2012 at 12:12 a.m.
AndrewLohr said...

"...a few...might benefit from vouchers" and you would deny them this opportunity?

Set it up so vouchers pay students to leave public schools, and pay less than public schools cost; say $5000 to go learn somewhere else instead of $10,000 in ps: spending-cut scholarships. Then the ps have more money per student for those who stay. Pay only those who leave, as a company offers early retirement only to its own employees, and those who would otherwise have gone in (older siblings in ps.) Include home schooling as a voucher option (parental involvement! Small class size!)

Why is parents adding to vouchers a problem? It puts more dollars into education without tax hikes.

Cherry-picking? Schools are for students, not students for schools; so the duty of a school or system to a student who'd do better elsewhere is to let the student go elsewhere.

Instead of setting up a bureaucracy to oversee vouchers, simply require each voucher student to get the signatures of seven or so Tennessee taxpayers who say they approve of their money paying for whatever the voucher student is doing.

I instruct and order those who represent me in Nashville to set up a voucher system along these lines. You are paid to work out the details.

October 3, 2012 at 5:50 a.m.
aae1049 said...

There are more pros than cons to education vouchers.

1) The public school model is designed to serve a narrow range of children. Very gifted and children with learning disabilities do thrive in the one size fits all model. These children need choice in educational placement to find the best fit for their learning needs. Give gifted and special needs children a choice.

2) Impoverished neighborhoods chronically have failing schools. If my child is zoned for a failing school, I should not be required to send my child to a school that is dangerous or academically failing. Being poor, should not mean that a child is mandated to attend a failing school. No way, give them a choice.

3) If the public school system cannot produce quality education, then I want my share of taxes to pay to seek better educational options for my child. For homeschooling the virtual school program is expensive. This should be funded with a voucher.

There are more reasons to have a voucher program, than not. Detractors say a voucher program would diminish the public schools. Maybe, it may prompt the public schools to do a better job.

October 3, 2012 at 6:45 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Sorry typo, "The public school model is designed to serve a narrow range of children. Very gifted and children with learning disabilities do NOT thrive in the one size fits all model. These children need choice in educational placement to find the best fit for their learning needs. Give gifted and special needs children a choice."

October 3, 2012 at 8:19 a.m.
hobo said...

I believe in equality. Our children should all receive the same instruction and this just wont happen if the rich reublicans can send their children to different schools. At least the poor parents should not have to pay for a rich republican's education. I agree with the person who wrote this.

October 3, 2012 at 9:16 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Conservatives are always complaining about how we can't fix public education by just "throwing money at it." But vouchers are nothing but "throwing money" to feed the private school system, and doing so in the most narrow and haphazard way.

If we're going to make education something that ALL children can benefit from, not just the well-to-do or those fortunate enough to have caring and responsible parents, then we're going to have to once again make PUBLIC education a priority and stop squandering tax money on programs that benefit only a select few.

Conservatives constantly whine that spending tax dollars is somehow wasteful and something that only liberals like to indulge in. But the fact is that spending is absolutely necessary in order to maintain a solid infrastructure and adequate services, including education and health care, that will keep us a strong, healthy, and prosperous nation. We cannot just stop spending, in the hopes of wiping out the deficit, and expect our problems to miraculously go away. In fact, with reduced spending, especially with regard to infrastucture and education, our problems will only worsen and cost us more to fix them later as opposed to fixing them now. Spending money can be wasteful, for sure, but if it's spent wisely and in the right places, the payoff will be cost-effective and well worth it.

Vouchers are unfair and ill conceived, and they totally undermine our public education system. If we want good schools for ALL kids, then we need to stop throwing tax money in different directions and focus more on PUBLIC education, addressing its needs first and foremost.

October 3, 2012 at 12:01 p.m.
aae1049 said...

10-4 JonRoss. Public education dollars should not be limited to attended a failing public school. A majority of parents share this view, and vouchers are the way to go.

October 3, 2012 at 3:30 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

The latest Gallup poll shows that 65% of Americans are opposed to the concept of school vouchers. There has been a 15% increase in opposition since 2008. Practically every poll ever taken has shown an overwhelming number of Americans are opposed to school vouchers and support more funding for public education.

For every one student who receives a voucher and goes to a private school, there are at least 10 students still in the public education sector. If vouchers are "the way to go" and the government is funneling vast amounts of money away from public ed as it doles out more and more money for vouchers, what is to be done about the 90% of American kids still stuck in a languishing, underfunded public education system? There are not enough private schools to accommodate every student nor enough money for the government to dole out.

Conservatives are always making the claim that it's not government's job to fund things like health care or education or entitlement programs anyway, but handing over money to individual families for education is still government funding/involvement. If we go to an all-private school system, then schools must be built quickly and on a massive scale; otherwise we will have kids stuck for years, even decades maybe, in the underfunded public school system, because no amount of private enterprise alone can act quickly enough to make it a profitable enough venture for it to undertake. Free-market purists think that everything revolves, or should revolve, around someone making a profit. But there are some things, like health care and education, where our basic necessities must be taken care of without regard for profit. No matter how you slice it and whether you like it or not, government is going to have to have a hand in our education.

There is no need to try to reinvent the education wheel. We need to stop this insane siphoning of money away from public ed and focus completely on strengthening and improving our existing public school system so that ALL Americans can get a quality education.

October 4, 2012 at 1:56 p.m.

School Vouchers do indeed on the concept of the profit value.

That is throwing money at a problem.

I wonder why that analogy is so often complained about with public schools, last I noticed, they were getting LESS funding.

Admittedly, I don't know about DC's public schools, but from what I do understand of DC's government, it's really controlled by Congress, who has no incentive to fix things, since their children go elsewhere.

Maybe that's the problem, maybe we should make Congress eat its own dogfood.

October 4, 2012 at 5:04 p.m.
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