In response to the 10/25/12 post, “The Hidden Agenda of Choice,” a LYS Superintendent writes:

SC,

Amen to this LYSer. In my district we have watched first hand as students return from suspect charters having been told that the charter cannot serve the child’s needs, even though it IS a public school and MUST provide for a free and appropriate education. With the emasculation of TEA and its limited resources, no oversight entity is in a position to address this public school choice experiment’s violation.

So, what do we do? We ignore the issues with the experiment so far and say we MUST need even more choice. Private choices. Competition does not make EVERYthing better. Sometimes it merely tramples on civil rights, safety and costs.

Did you make out better with electricity competition? How about state college tuition? How about the run away competition of the late 1800s with no regulations on industry safety?

If you think public charters have problems following the rules… wait for private schools taking public money. Who will police them? I wonder how willing the elite private school will be to accept my high need, ADHD/Dyslexic child in its perfect private world?

Plato always feared a Democratic form of government as rule of the mob. We proved him wrong by educating the mob to a higher level than anyone ever imagined, adding more and more educated voters to our rolls. In the process, we combined democratic principles, with capitalism and free public schools to create the most successful nation state ever.  Now we want to roll things backwards with an Indian style caste system. I weep for the America that my kids may inherit if that happens. Rome may be falling… Like my political, historical and legislative references? I owe everything to my public school education.

SC Response The push for vouchers raises a number of disturbing, anti-egalitarian issues that the far right is aggressively pursuing.  I’ll touch on the Scary Two.

Segregation: The voucher is the tool of the segregationist.  Look at the typical private school in your community.  You will notice that the student population is predominantly high SES, white, and/or represents a specific denomination.  Public schools, rightly, are prevented from openly perpetuating such a system.  At the private school, not only is this by design, it is a selling point to parents.  Though personally I find it reprehensible, I will defend your right to self-select a segregationist solution for your child’s education.  But I am not willing to fund that option with public money.

Perpetuating a wealth-based aristocracy: The voucher is the tool of the wannabe aristocrat.  An enlightened society works to expand opportunity and create an infrastructure that furthers the greater good.  Public education is perhaps our best example of this.  The community provides a means to educate the masses to ensure that the citizenry is informed, can produce and can create.  There are some (primarily the wealthy and elite) that choose not to educate their children in the public system (as is their right).  In opting out of the system, the wealthy and elite purchases a different peer group for their children (primarily made up of other wealthy and elite children). But they pay for this and the money that would have been used on a now private school student is reallocated to students that remain in the public system.  This is a capitalistic win/win.  The elite (who can afford it) get what they want. The masses get increased resources to further their education and hence expand their opportunity set. 

But the wannabe aristocrat will say this is unfair.  They will say that the fair solution is that the money should follow the student. But let’s look at the policy implications of this seemingly fair solution.

1. The money follows the student from the public school to the private school. This means that the students already out of the public system must first be funded. Now with all things being equal, there is significantly less money to serve the current population of public school students.  So immediately, the non-elite take a significant hit to benefit the elite (Lose / Win).

2. To prevent the significant defunding of public schools, the legislature adds to the education budget the amount that funds the private school vouchers.  Now the state is funding private schools that are segregated, and/or openly promote a specific creed, and are not subject to state accountability standards. Add to that the fact that the elite now receive a financial incentive to participate in such a system (Lose / Win?).

But what about the families that will now be able to let their children escape from bad public schools and enroll in good private schools, because of the availability of vouchers? It won’t happen because:

A. Even with the voucher, the price of tuition will remain price prohibitive to the poor and lower middle class.

B. The soft and/or hidden admission requirements of the private school will not be met.

C. The tuition of the private school will increase to capture the entire voucher amount.

For all the problems (real and perceived) that beset public education, vouchers are not the optimal solution.  For all of the reasons discussed above (and many more), I believe that vouchers are bad public policy. 

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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