For all the attention at the federal level toward improving public schools through the No Child Left Behind law, Republicans insist on the odd twist of proposing vouchers to send children to private schools.
Congressional Republicans, including Sen. Lamar Alexander, have unveiled a $100 million proposal to give vouchers to poor children to leave struggling public schools. The plan would give parents $4,000 per year to put toward private school tuition or a public school outside their district, with the availability of up to $3,000 for extra tutoring.
So, after so much focus on creating accountability in public schools, lawmakers would readily be willing to punt on public schools and plunge public money into private education. The premise seems to be that if you give children from poor families funds to put into private schools that the students' performance would somehow suddenly be much better in the private realm. But it must have been embarrassing for Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who appeared with lawmakers to show support for the plan, that a new study from the Education Department shows that public school students frequently did just as well, or even better, than their counterparts in private schools who had similar backgrounds. Spellings attempted to downplay the results, even saying she knew little about the report. But it was issued from her own department. She said there should be improvement in the way such reports are released.
The bottom line is that the crowd that paints itself as deeply concerned about public schools still wants to have students leave public schools. It makes no sense.Every dollar of those vouchers that would go into private schools is a dollar that could go toward public education, which the federal government says it wants to improve. Shifting funds does not improve public education. A firm commitment to public schools is what will help public schools.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Voucher Card Turns Out to Be the Deuce of Clubs
Yesterday's editorial, "The Voucher Card Again," from the Nashville Tennessean pretty much nails it: