Joe Blow: Didja hear this one? The government wants to give poor kids $4,000 to go to a private school. Heck, that sounds wunnerful!
Mr. Blister: Just try to find a good private school for $4,000 a year. Good luck.
Joe Blow: But my good buddies at Cato Institute tell me that "Education Department figures show that the average private elementary school tuition in America is less than $2,500. The average tuition for all private schools, elementary and secondary, is $3,116, or less than half of the cost per pupil in the average public school, $6,857." So there!
Mr. Blister: Your Cato buddies are hitting the sauce again. The Education Department also has figures that show that the "largest system of private schools in the United States is operated by the Roman Catholic Church and includes 8,351 schools in 1993-94, serving 2,516,000 students."
Joe Blow: You got a problem with Catholic schools?
Mr. Blister: Not at all. But I do got a problem with public funds being given to religious institutions. There's that Constitution thing. First amendment. You've heard of it? The Education Department revealed that "(m)ost parochial school principals reported that their schools most important education goal was religious development."
Joe Blow: But if these private religious schools do a better job than the public schools, maybe it's time we edited that there Constitution.
Mr. Blister: Well, that same pesky Education Department just released a study that showed that students attending public schools generally did as well as or better than comparable students in private schools.
Joe Blow: Is that so?
Mr. Blister: Yup.
Joe Blow: Well I'll be . . .
Mr. Blister: Kinda makes you wonder about why people would back something that is so wildly at odds with the facts. $4,000 would allow a poor family to send their kids to a religious school, where their children would be given a Christian education focused on religious development at tax-payer expense, including tax-payers who happen to be Jewish, Muslim, atheists, etc. There's no reason at all to suspect that the education these kids got at these religious schools would be any better than what they were getting before at a public school. Of course, we'd never know that because private schools are not accountable under NCLB. So the $4,000 invested in these kids would be more like a prayer and less like a public policy designed to close the achievement gap. But, given that these kids would be attending religious schools, I suppose praying for achievement is appropriate.