"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, March 14, 2008

Leininger vs. Public Education

From the Waco Tribune:

Editorial: A school voucher sneak attack

Friday, March 14, 2008

Supporters of public schools really need to keep an eye on the Texas Legislature and surreptitious efforts to undermine school funding by shifting dollars to private and church-run schools through school vouchers.

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Vouchers represent direct cuts in school funding. Though money “follows the student” to a private or church school, meaning one less student to educate, public schools’ costs like heating, cooling and more stay fixed.

A coterie of schemers supported by campaign bank-roller James Leininger constantly tries to find ways to get a foot in the door in Texas for school vouchers.

Proponents often press for “pilot” programs aimed at big-city urban school districts where the challenges presented by poverty and lack of parental involvement are most pronounced.

They blame public schools for lack of achievement and downplay the parental role. A recent study of 1,000 low-income 12th-graders by the non-partisan Center on Education Policy found that when comparing apples to apples — comparing students whose parents were comparably involved in their education — public schools performed better than private schools.

That’s not what the voucher lobby wants you to believe.

Another thing it doesn’t want people to understand is that even when offered vouchers, most parents stick with their public schools.

Unfortunately, this week when the High School Completion and Success Initiative Council met, a body appointed by voucher proponents Gov. Rick Perry, House Speaker Tom Craddick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, some members tried to turn their advisory role into a mission to bring about vouchers for “drop-out prevention.”

Fortunately, State Rep. Rob Eissler, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, made an impromptu appearance to tell the advisory group that vouchers were not germane to the committee’s mission under the language of the bill that created it. The council backed off.

Without question, the council has an important mission: Advise on how public schools can better prepare students for higher education and to see how standards of both can intertwine.

It is clear that teaching focused strictly on passing state standardized tests doesn’t do the trick. College-bound students need to shoot higher or vast numbers will need remedial classes, as too many do today. And these days every student needs continuing education to thrive in the changing marketplace.

As with the whole of public education policy, there’s enough to examine and improve without sidetracking discussion to the tendentious and dubious idea of siphoning dollars from public schools to private ones with vouchers.

Stick to the agenda, please, and leave Mr. Leininger’s agenda out of it.

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