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School Vouchers.
February 20, 2002 3:51 AM   Subscribe

School Vouchers. This has been discussed before (a while ago) and is going to the Supreme Court.
posted by sadie01221975 (20 comments total)

 
Well, school vouchers would ruin private schools. I thought the whole point of private schools were so people who could pay could take their kids out of public schools, and put them where classes would be smaller and better allegedly.

But if the poor people can get cash to pay for private school, and they move all their kids over to private schools, private schools get all crowded and stuff, and we are right back to where we started!.

And why should the Government give people this? They already provide schooling...
posted by Keen at 4:37 AM on February 20, 2002


[Well, school vouchers would ruin private schools. ]

They haven't thusfar where they have been tried. The idea here is providing competition outside of the current system.

[And why should the Government give people this? They already provide schooling...]

That's certainly debatable. There are school systems that have 50% illiteracy rates and yet promote 90% of the children to the next grade. Why should those children be trapped in that failing system? Have a 5 minute conversation with a random 15 year old and you'll find out exactly how much education they are getting.

Having attended an inner-city school in Buffalo (PS#44) and St Mary's in the suburbs I can tell you I got a much better education at the private school. Fortunately for me my relatives were able to chip in about $900 a year torwards tuition and I worked the church's soup kitchens on weekends and did janitorial work after school to cover the rest. It was a good deal and not everyone has such good luck or family.
posted by revbrian at 4:55 AM on February 20, 2002


The idea that vouchers somehow breach the wall between church and state is ridiculous on its face. Government funds go to many universities with religious affiliations, and the GI Bill, one of the most famously successful pieces of legislation ever, paid for veterans to attend any institution of higher education they wished, whether it was State U, or Notre Dame.

While I like the voucher idea, as do voters and parents, I worry that it will be the camel's nose under the tent with respect to federal control of the content of private school education. What government funds, government controls. Example: Title IX. Whether you think it does more harm than good, or vice versa, it indisputably represents federal control of university policy, which is made possible by the universities accepting federal money. Only a few colleges don't.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:12 AM on February 20, 2002


the GI Bill, one of the most famously successful pieces of legislation ever, paid for veterans to attend any institution of higher education they wished, whether it was State U, or Notre Dame.

One difference between the G.I. Bill and the Cleveland school voucher case is that within Cleveland, the vast, vast majority of the schools that will accept vouchers are religiously-affiliated, with less than one percent of the students in the program attending a secular school. This was the reason that the Supreme Court decided to hear the Cleveland case rather than the Milwaukee case. It has partly to do with whether vouchers really provide a choice, or whether it amounts to de facto government support of religious education.
posted by Avogadro at 6:57 AM on February 20, 2002


I don't think it's a Consitutional violation, even if some of the money goes to religious schools, as long as its given to Catholics, Protestants, etc. alike -- as long as they have schools someone wants to go to.

Perhaps it's just because I have no religious conviction so strong as my belief that the public school system is a truly evil thing.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:40 AM on February 20, 2002


The money allocated for vouchers is based on a per student basis, depending on the school district represented.

Parents are given an amount of money more or less equal to what their public school spends on an average student. As such, students from poor schools (ostensibly those with the greatest motivation to move) will receive less money than those from school districts of greater means.

Parents, therefore, will only receive a few thousand dollars at most - certainly not enough money to send their children to well run private schools (schools which don't want poor and ill educated students in the first place). As a result, the only option for alternative schooling becomes some kind of religious backed education.

So while the connection is indirect, school vouchers do indeed result in state sponsored religious education. Regardless of which religions are favored, such a system clearly crosses the church/state line.

But all that aside, vouchers cause tremendous damage to already deprived schools. By allowing parents to opt out of their school districts, vouchers take money away from schools that are already suffering; they make a bad situation worse.

The solution is to do away with the current model for public school funding, a system primarily based on property taxes, and switch to something more equitable.

Here in Illinois, a school in the Northern suburbs of Chicago receives much more money than a school in the Southern part of the state. Lakefront property is far more valuable.

Equitable distribution of state and federal funds will help solve the public school system. Vouchers will serve only to widen the gulf between rich and poor, ultimately causing far more harm than good.
posted by aladfar at 8:10 AM on February 20, 2002


(dagnyscott says) the public school system is a truly evil thing.

Is that really, truly evil, like al Quaida or racism? Or only a little truly evil, like the Dept of Motor Vehicles? I have a couple kids sailing through public school, and they seem relatively unscarred by the experience. Sure, they learned how to read and do math; they even came home with their heads filled with that evolution stuff. One of my sons even came home knowing how to sew buttons back on. Since neither one of his parents really knew how to do that, we came out ahead on that.

My point is that my high school age public school educated (so far) kids seem relatively well ecucated and relatively well adjusted. So what is so evil about public schools?
posted by faceonmars at 8:15 AM on February 20, 2002


Situation: a system where a number of schools are said to not provide as good an education or opportunity as their more expensive counterparts.

Solution? Take some kids out of the public schools and put them in the private schools.

I think not. There are still kids sitting in classrooms in the supposedly sub-part private schools. The solution isn't transplanting a fraction of the students; it's keeping them where they are and getting better teachers and books and improving the learning environment in the system as a whole. Vouchers are an aversion of a problem, not a solution to one.
posted by tomorama at 8:56 AM on February 20, 2002


Generally the voucher is less than the total amount the public school would spend on the student, so wouldn't the school benefit from having less students and a little more money, per capita?

There are a few basic things that will make all public schools better, but the teachers unions are the biggest obstacle to positive change (like re-instating phonics education instead of 'whole language'). This is why the voucher system is an issue. Parents are tired of funding a system which they believe fails their children, and they want their money back, so that they can educate their children as they see fit. I think education should be voluntary. That way, even in the most crime ridden, dangerous, low quality public schools, only those truly interested in learning would attend.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:01 AM on February 20, 2002


This can't possibly go through. For one thing, there are little controls on the experience required and training of new private school teacher hires. If you want to teach in a public school (at least in california), you have to go through a year of targetted education certificate training. During that year you get experience teaching in a real class, with a mentor present. If public funds start going to private schools, will public school laws apply to private schools?

I remember a few friends from college that couldn't find a job post-graduation became private, religious school teachers. We were all science majors, so they would entertain us with stories of passing over evolution, and trying to answer student questions about biology and geology without mentioning evolutionary reasons. The private school only required a bachelor's degree, so they were "qualified" even though none of them had ever taught a day in their lives.
posted by mathowie at 10:35 AM on February 20, 2002


I think everyone here would agree that an equitable distribution of school funding is priority one. However, that's not at all incompatible with a voucher system. And all else being equal, wouldn't a system in which schools have an incentive to perform be a good idea? Basically, in every other area of collective activity we recognize that the best tools to encourage performance are competition and (not necessarily monetary) incentives. Why doesn't that apply to schools as well?
posted by lbergstr at 10:40 AM on February 20, 2002


I thought everyone knew that anything worth learning cannot be taught in a school. Put vouchers in the middle of the gym floor, then split the kids into two groups. Put these two groups along opposite walls. At the blow of a whistle it is EVERYONE FOR THEMSELF, running towards the center of the gym and getting as many vouchers as they can. This will ensure an unchallengable olympic dodgeball dynasty by 2023.

Personally I think that the problem with schools is not so much related to resource allocation. It seems that the problem is that the kids aren't being taught correctly or with efficacy. The school system needs unlimited funding before it can ever work correctly. People need to start seeing that this issue is really really important. Think about how wonderful the world would be if everyone were as educated as you.

I think we should turn the tables on our third world education by giving the third world educated turn tables. Which can be sold at pawn shops. LIFE LESSONS PEOPLE.

buh guh blam crash etc.
posted by Settle at 10:44 AM on February 20, 2002


I think education should be voluntary. That way, even in the most crime ridden, dangerous, low quality public schools, only those truly interested in learning would attend.

clearly we would be much better off if our society was less educated than it is now. because we all know that the level of education in a society has no relationship whatsoever to economic productivity, crime rates, overall wealth, and quality of life. no relationship whatsoever...

seriously though, the correct market response to bad schools is to pay teachers more money. higher salaries attract more qualified and competant teachers and thus, improve quality. increasing "teacher accountability" without increasing their pay actually makes things worse because you are creating even more disincentives (as if there weren't enough already!) for people to become teachers rather than accoutants or lawyers or whatever.
posted by boltman at 12:39 PM on February 20, 2002


I think we should turn the tables on our third world education by giving the third world educated turn tables.

nations of dj's. changing the face of education with dope beats. you my friend, win my "#1 in the hood" award for today.
posted by lotsofno at 12:53 PM on February 20, 2002


higher salaries attract more qualified and competant teachers and thus, improve quality.

I remember the old saying when I worked in a fast food place at the age of 18:

"If you pay peanuts, you'll get monkeys"

I think there is a lot of truth to that. Personally, all the smart people I know interested in education are teaching at four year or junior colleges, where they can make $50k a year anywhere they can get a position. I don't know anyone working at a public elementary or high school making over $30k, and of the few I know doing it, it sounds quite miserable.

I used to think coming up with a new model of economics of paying teachers would fix things. If pro athletes get paid millions of dollars a year, they do so because it creates even more wealth for the team and team owners. Now think about the amount of additional wealth created by public school teachers, when they teach you to read, you have a much better chance at getting a higher salary. However, there is no return loop back to the school for providing you with those tools (you could always do an alumni thing or scholarship), though it could be argued the increased federal taxes you earn at a higher income job pay back the nation for educating you, however the link is quite weak when done in that fashion.

I think a fast food analogy applies in this case. If you've ever been to an In-N-Out burger joint, you've probably noticed, the fast, accurate, and friendly staff working there for $9-10/hour, while a place like McDonalds has "we love to see you smile" campaigns that force workers to put on a fake happy face while pulling down minimum wage (much like teachers having to prove their worth for the same low wage). There is a noticable difference in the experience of being around people who want to work somewhere, and people that are merely doing it because they have to.
posted by mathowie at 12:53 PM on February 20, 2002


boltman: higher salaries attract more qualified and competant teachers and thus, improve quality.

Definitely. Teachers should be paid more. However:

mathowie: I don't know anyone working at a public elementary or high school making over $30k, and of the few I know doing it, it sounds quite miserable.

I think there are reasons (in addition to low salaries) that teaching at public schools is so miserable. It's no fun to work in an organization that is just fundamentally fucked (teachers' unions, a seniority system that gives everyone an incentive to maintain the status quo). I'd rather have a little less job security and work with more motivated people.
posted by lbergstr at 1:24 PM on February 20, 2002


I think there is a lot of truth to that... I don't know anyone working at a public elementary or high school making over $30k, and of the few I know doing it, it sounds quite miserable.

My fiancee and her brother both worked in education (fiancee as a Montessori teacher, brother as an elementary school teach). The long hours and low salaries were simply not worth it. However, what pushed them over the edge (esp. my fiancee's brother) was the utter lack of support from adminstration and parents, both of whom demanded greater individual attention and higher performance, but neither of whom were willing to devote the money, supplies, and personnel (in the case of admin.) or the support of their kids' education outside of the classroom (in the case of the parents).

And this is where I am in a quandry regarding school vouchers. On one hand, parents are usually more involved with their child's schooling when they are in private schools. However, this involvement usually has to do with the fact that they are paying money to send their kids to schools. In my opinion, you cannot have a learned citizenry without professional teachers who aren't burned out and parents who are a part of the learning process.

More than these two factors, though, you have to also understand that vouchers by themselves won't improve education. I often think of this finding quoted from this article by James Traub (NY Times):
A study carried out in the early 80's at the University of Kansas reached the almost unfathomable conclusion that 3-year-olds in families with professional parents used more-extensive vocabularies in daily interactions than did mothers on welfare (emphasis mine) -- not to mention the children of those mothers.
We must address the economic and social factors that keeps out children from achieving in the classroom. I worry that supporters of vouchers see the free-market model as the answer, when in reality, it is at best a part of the solution.
posted by Avogadro at 1:59 PM on February 20, 2002


The Decision of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit explains much of the history and work of this voucher program and previous court voucher decisions.
posted by alethe at 11:13 PM on February 20, 2002


Data points regarding teacher pay and underfunding of schools: according to this week's Time, the average US teacher is earning $42,000. That's across the board, first years to thirty year teaching veterans, and those with bachelors and those with doctorates.

In addition, US teachers pay more than $500 out of their own pockets, on the average, for supplies for their classrooms. First year teachers, who are making the least salary-wise are putting out the most in personal funds for class supplies, averaging over $750, nationwide. (The president has proposed a $400/year tax credit for teachers who purchase supplies for their students. There has been no discussion about this proposal as of yet.)

Underpaid? Check. Working in an underfunded environment? Check. Dedicated to working around gaps left by underfunding? Check. Worth a hell of a lot more - especially if they are to be the front line of education for the majority of the kids in this country? Check.

Is that really, truly evil, like al Quaida or racism? Or only a little truly evil, like the Dept of Motor Vehicles?

I'd say that the public schools in the US have the capacity to be slightly evil. They're the Diet Coke of evil, just one calorie, not evil enough.
posted by Dreama at 3:00 AM on February 21, 2002


I would say the public schools are truly evil, like al Quaida or racism, yes. The only part that may prevent this judgment is that most of the people involved are just morons, not really evil.

They have absolute power over children, therefore they, basically, control the future of our country. And what I see going on is not good. I'm not talking about "that damn evolution stuff," the assumption that I'm a Christian is rather humorous to me, actually. Hell, I had a Darwin fish on my car until it was totalled. I'm talking the elementary school administrator who wanted to throw gifted students together with ... academically challenged students, because neither of them fit her certain mold. I'm talking about the high school teacher with a picture of one of his students in very short shorts showing off her legs right on the top-center of his monitor. I'm talking the history teacher who tells parents "I don't know why they have to learn this stuff anyway." I'm talking having to sit around for six hours a day watching movies because it's the only way to go anywhere in this world. I'm talking about elementary school teachers who don't understand the difference between difficulty reading on account of mental ability and difficulty reading on account of being legally blind. Need any more proof, or are you still going to dismiss me as a fundie?
posted by dagnyscott at 8:50 PM on February 22, 2002


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