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

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Voucher Smackdown

Thanks to Jay Bookman, who deflates another dangerously ignorant Georgia gas bag with this commentary:
By Jay Bookman | Monday, August 11, 2008, 10:16 AM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“We shouldn’t be trying to raise our test scores above Alabama’s,” state Sen. Eric Johnson pointed out in a recent speech on education. “We are not competing with Alabama anymore. Georgia should be trying to raise them above Austria’s and South Korea’s.”

As a statement of goals, the senator is exactly right. He recognizes that our children will have to compete in a global marketplace, against the best and brightest from around the world, if they are to continue to enjoy the quality of life that America has provided their parents.

Unfortunately, his primary prescription for attaining that goal — taxpayer-funded vouchers to finance private-school education — is founded more on ideology than on common sense or experience.

Johnson, who has announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor in 2010, claimed in his speech to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation that the only way we can match the education performance of other nations is through the magic of competition. As he put it, “That kind of success will only be created by the marketplace, not a monopoly.”

That is of course demonstrably false. If that kind of success can be achieved only by the marketplace, how can we account for the educational achievements of Austria and South Korea, the very nations Johnson chose as standards? Schools in those nations are controlled at the federal level far more rigidly than American schools. There and elsewhere, nations have somehow accomplished what Johnson claims cannot be done here in America.

Johnson’s proposal also ignores the poor record of voucher programs here in the United States. While he promises that “if we offer every parent the freedom to choose the best school and allow the funding to follow every child to their chosen school, Georgia will skyrocket to the top of every educational measurement,” nothing in the research data justifies that lofty claim.

Most important, Johnson ignores the true nature of Georgia’s challenge, which is as much cultural and multigenerational as institutional.

For far too long, education wasn’t considered important here — not by government officials, who feared the taxes required to build a first-rate system; and not by business, which in addition to fearing taxes saw ways to make profits with a lesser educated work force that also demanded lower wages. . . .
Read the rest here.

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