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Barry, what’s wrong with giving parents a real choice about what school to send their children to? Parents are in a much better position than you or I to decide whether the public schools in their community are providing a solid education in a safe environment.
Your claim that conservatives are guilty of supporting socialism by arguing for voucher programs is absurd. A basic premise of our public school system is that taxpayers provide students with an education without regard to their family’s income. It is no more “socialist” to allow parents to direct a portion of government support allocated for their children’s education to a private school than it is to provide taxpayer-funded public schools in the first place. Remember, Barry, that it was so-called “progressives” who sought to require attendance at public schools in states such as Oregon in the 1920s before the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the right of parents to direct their children’s education. Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925).
Proponents of vouchers recognize that many parents who seek to send their children to a private school end up getting hit twice financially by paying to support a public school system that their children do not attend and also paying tuition to a private school. An education voucher is similar in principle to any number of tax credits, deductions, etc. through which the government eases the burden of taxation by promoting or subsidizing certain expenditures. Providing vouchers does not mean that we will take away funding from the public school system; voucher programs simply provide parents with greater options in deciding which school to send their children to.
Voucher programs recognize that too many children from low-income families are trapped in dangerous, woefully underperforming public schools. For example, the Washington Times reported on the devastating impact that ending the D.C. voucher program will have on families who have counted on the program:
“Patricia William worries for the future of her two children, both in the voucher program. The success of her eldest son and aspiring president, Fransoir, 12, has motivated her to go back to school for a nursing degree. ‘It’s not a competition between public schools, charter and private,’ said Ms. William. ‘Not all schools work the same for all children and we, as parents, should have the right to chose the school that works for them.’ The mother of two boys recalls her eldest’s struggle in public school, and the effect on his mood and stability. After entering Sacred Heart School, a bilingual Catholic school in Columbia Heights, five years ago at the start of the voucher program, she noticed a ‘tremendous impact emotionally, academically and physically,’ as Fransoir got the attention he needed.”
Barry, I’m guessing your real problem with voucher programs is not the quality of education that students receive but rather the fact that parents like Patricia William may choose religiously affiliated schools. As you know, however, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a school voucher program in Cleveland which gave parents the option of attending sectarian or non-sectarian schools.
I am not suggesting that we should cut funding for public schools. My wife Pam was a public school teacher in the inner city and I understand the importance of ensuring that the schools that need them the most have well-qualified teachers. But we also need to give parents a choice and voucher programs do just that.
Barry, under your view of education funding, shouldn’t the government cut all college scholarship, grant, loan, work study, and other financial aid programs that allow students to use funds at private colleges and universities? Voucher programs and college financial aid programs both involve the government helping to partially fund a student’s choice to attend a private school. I hope your opposition to vouchers would not lead you to adopt such an extreme position.
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