Tuesday, December 12, 2006

School Vouchers

As Mr. Walberg prepares himself to take office next month, I thought that we could look at one of the issues that he supports: School Vouchers (sometimes called “scholarships” by it's supporters). Public schools get a certain amount of money per student, a school voucher would give the money that would be spent on each student to the parents of those students rather than the school district. This would allow that money to be spent on private school if the parents so choose. This is not a new issue, it has been a hot button issue in this state not that long ago.

The argument for School Vouchers:
  • Parents should be able to choose the school their children attend.
  • Create a “Free Market” in education. Creating an atmosphere in which schools compete would force each school to improve their educational experience in order to attract students and thus funding. Successful schools would improve funding and poor school would be forced to get better or close.
  • Allow lower income students access to private schools.
  • The US university system allows schools to compete and raises the education value of each school.
  • The wealthy are the only ones able to afford the benefits of a private school.

The argument against School Vouchers:
  • School of Choice is possible without School Vouchers (Michigan allows a student to go to a public school of their choosing with certain limitations such as busing).
  • A voucher system would weaken the funding system for public schools.
  • A voucher system would not cover the tuition cost of all private schools.
  • Some private schools worry that if the state funds their school, even indirectly it will demand greater control over what is taught in those schools. They fear that this could also lead to making private schools more like public schools are now.
  • Since private schools are allowed to choose who attends their schools, it would only choose the best students or students with a certain religious belief, making public schools “a dumping ground” for those who do not have good grades and belong to the incorrect religion.
  • Could allow for a two-tiered standard for education.
  • Since most private schools are religious, this would mean a tearing down of the wall between church and state.
  • Vouchers are a way around fixing the problems that some public schools face.

Vouchers actually have been implemented in some areas. Some countries have voucher-like programs installed nation wide. Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Cleveland, Ohio are both cities that enacted a voucher program. The Cleveland program was tested in court over the issue of separation of church and state. A federal district court and an appeals court found the program in volatilization of the issue. The Supreme Court however found that in the area the vouchers were enacted there was sufficient choice for parents and that the underlying goal, improving elementary education, was secular one. Florida also tried to enact the Opportunity Scholarship Program, a voucher system. This system was killed by a Supreme Court ruling against it because it found it violated the state's constitution. Also worth noting is that the federal government runs a voucher program for the evacuees of Hurricane Katrina.

Now, any one that has read my blog can probably guess where I stand on this issue; vouchers are a bad idea. That being said, I tried to put my bias aside when writing the arguments both for against above.

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Walberg also supports the idea of giving school vouchers to parents who homeschool their children. I will look for a citation and post it later.
You're right, his children were homeschooled.
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