Sounds like a good idea but ...
School vouchers sounds like a good idea. The State has to pay for public education. We pay taxes for education. So if I send my kids to private schools then why not have that money, in the form of a school voucher, to go to the school where my kids actually attend? Why should I pay for a school I'm not using? Private schools are better than public schools anyhow. So why give this money to inferior schools? Sound familiar? Seems to make sense.
Many conservative politicians are making these arguments. They appeal to Christians who oppose the Godless schools which ban teachers from leading students in [Christian] prayer. School teachers and their unions are the laziest, liberal crybabies in America. Only other teachers and Democrats who want their union support think that public education is doing a good job. They're graduating kids that can't read or write and they oppose any form of teacher testing or evaluation. Why not just take their money away and let public education go bankrupt and move everyone into private education?
It all sounds great. In fact, much of it is true. You sure don't have to look very hard to see the flaws in public education. But the solutions are not that simple and I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers. I do however want to point out some issues that need to be seriously considered before we blindly go off into supporting school voucher systems. This should make everyone, especially conservatives, think twice about school vouchers.
Government Money equals Government Control
The government doesn't give anyone money without strings attached as to how that money is spent. Once private schools start taking government funds, the government is going to tell them how they have to spend those funds. They are also going to put all kinds of conditions and standards on the private schools to keep getting those funds. There may not be a lot of control at first, but after a few years the private schools will be as hooked on government money as kids are hooked on cigarettes. Once you get hooked on that government money there's no turning back. When private schools give up their freedom and independence, they become the same as the public schools. A school voucher system would lead to the elimination of private and religious education.
Government Money always has Strings Attached
But what happens when private schools start taking government money? I suspect that the first thing is that the ability to discriminate will be gone. After all, if you're going to take public tax dollars, then you have to accept any kid who wants to go to your school. We can't have public funds going to subsidize schools where the public isn't welcome. There's no doubt in my mind that the courts are going to order that any private school that takes public money has to admit any student that the public schools admit.
When you take their money, you are subject to their rules. The government isn't going to just hand money over to private schools without telling them how they have to spend it and what they have to do to get it.
Then there's the curriculum standards. The government could declare that all schools that receive government money have to meet government standards are subject to government inspections and control. When it comes down to it, is there anything that a private school that takes public money can do that a public school that takes public money can't?
Public Schools aren't going away ...
If anyone has any illusions that the public schools are going out of business, you're dead wrong. In fact, if the government has to pay for school vouchers, then it's going to come out of money for public schools. The public schools will be under funded. What happens when public schools are under funded? You guessed it; they raise taxes. So if you get $2000 a year in school vouchers, but your property taxes go up $2000 a year, what have you saved. Nothing!
Public schools will always be around because they have to educate the kids that the private schools won't have. The private schools get to cherry pick who can attend. The public schools get what's left after the cherries are gone.
Public schools still have to educate all the kids the private schools reject.
This isn't the only reason private schools are better or only advantage that private schools have. The point is that if you compare private and public schools it's not a level playing field. And if private schools start taking public money and are subject to the same rules as public schools, the private schools will deteriorate to the same level as public schools. Public money will take away private school advantages.
Another issue is what's fair? Many people who send their kids to private schools feel that it's not fair for them to pay tax dollars to fund public schools and then pay again for private schools. What about me. I don't have any kids so what can't I use my education taxes to pay for things I want? Can I use it to pay to send myself to college, or to buy Pot and Hookers? What am I getting for my education dollar?
If we were going to do what's fair then we should send the parents a bill for their children's education and require them to pay it. If they have 10 kids and can't pay, throw the kids out of school. That's what private schools do if you can't pay.
The point is that what's fair and what works are often not the same things. So if you are going to argue that it's not fair for you to pay for public education if your kids are in private school, then why is it fair for people with no kids to pay for public education? You can't have it both ways.
Money vs. Freedom
What really is the difference between a private school and a public school. The difference is that a private school runs on private money and a public school runs on public money. Is a private school that takes public money really a private school? I don't think so. The reason is that once you get hooked on that public money then you will slowly lose all the freedoms of being a private school. What you end up with is a public school with all the same problems that you were trying to get away from in the first place.
If private schools have to give up their freedom and independence to get public money, it's not worth it.
The voucher system may end up being a government plot to eliminate the freedom and independence of private schools.
Like I said, real solutions aren't easy. Rather than a voucher system you might want to press for tax deductions for private schools. It's not quite the same thing as a voucher, but it avoids the pitfalls of sending public money to private schools.
The public schools need to be fixed. We need to insist that social promotion be ended and that the schools focus on teaching the "Three Rs". That would be [R]eading, [R]iting, and [R]ithmetic. Kids need to be free of left wing social engineering as well as right wing religious dogma. Schools need to teach science, math, and skills that a person actually needs to learn in order to get a job and function in the real world. We need to break the union teacher mentality and insist that schools produce results. We need schools to understand that it is their job to produce students that are ready to enter the work force and hold jobs. The quality that is coming out of public schools is unacceptable.
In the near future there will be another school choice. We will have Internet based education where software companies bring together the best programmers and the best teachers to deliver a class to millions of people on the Internet. These classes will be available per subject and can be delivered to public schools, private schools, and home based schools. This will allow education to be customized on a per student basis. This is the education of tomorrow and will create the biggest change in education since the invention of the book.
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