Barrett: The way that school boards can 'afford' to fund vouchers

Barrett: The way that school boards can 'afford' to fund vouchers

December 18th, 2011 by Steve Barrett in Opinion Columns

Voicing opposition to vouchers, a Bradley County Board of Education member asks, "How can we afford to give any of our money to any private school, no matter what the argument may be?"

Here's how: Ignore the "arguments" and look at the facts.

Look at school systems where vouchers have worked academically and economically, and imitate them.

Start with Washington, D.C.

Washington annually spends more than $16,000 educating each of its public school students -- with results that in many cases are scarcely better than if students spent their school hours playing Chutes and Ladders.

But when disadvantaged children in failing D.C. public schools were provided a far lower amount -- $7,500 -- to attend private schools, their academic performance and parental satisfaction improved. That was the conclusion of everyone from conservative politicians to the liberal editorial page of The Washington Post.

Whether a school system can afford to pay for vouchers is the wrong question. The question is whether it can afford not to.

A baby lovely as a tree

If your country is producing far too few young'uns to sustain its population, are policies that discourage childbearing a good idea?

Let's ask Germany.

"Germany is shrinking -- fast," Time magazine noted in 2010. "[T]he birth rate in Europe's biggest economy has plummeted to a historic low, dropping to a level not seen since 1946. As demographers warn of the consequences of not making enough babies to replace and support an aging population, the latest figures have triggered a bout of national soul-searching ... ."

But they have not, it seems, triggered a serious flirtation with common sense. Consider this quaint fact, reported recently in the Times Free Press: "[A] requirement for a marriage license in Hamm [Chattanooga's sister city in Germany] is to plant a tree in a designated urban green area."

Not to get all persnickety, but is it smart, in a country where birthrates are in free fall, to create a disincentive to procreation by denying wedded bliss to people who refuse to play out some Arbor Day re-enactment for the benefit of eco-nannies?

Tell us how that works out

Sooo, Democrats have launched a phone campaign over in Tennessee's 4th District to persuade voters there to boot U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais next November.

While they're at it, why not sink a few million into the Mississippians for Jane Fonda 2012 campaign? That has a roughly equal chance of success.

Insufficient funds

"Obama's team banks on his 'regular guy' appeal," read the headline on an article by one Ken Thomas of The Associated Press.

To which some wag at National Review replied, "We're not in the habit of giving advice to the Obama campaign, but: Maybe bank on something else?"

J.R. shot himself

After Mitt Ewing-Romney's attempted $10,000 bet with Texas Gov. Rick Perry during a debate in Iowa, I kept waiting for Sue Ellen, Bobby and Pam to jump on stage for the latest "Dallas" reunion.

What a relief

Almost the entire Republican establishment is arrayed against Newt Gingrich.

I can think of nothing short of a denunciation by Michael Moore that would prove more conclusively that Gingrich is doing something right.

Color me wounded

I was absorbed in my workplace routine the other day -- raining harmony and good will on the universe -- when a colleague walked into the office kitchen and remarked, "It's good to see Mr. Sunshine again."

To which, naturally, I replied, "Thank you."

Admirers of my unfailing cheeriness can no doubt imagine my horror when she noted that she was referring to the weather.

Fine. Be that way.

Now back to my pot of sauerkraut.