Can't say the pledge? Pick a school that does!
June 27, 2002 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Can't say the pledge? Pick a school that does! School Vouchers are okay, even when used at religious schools. Well, that is a freedom of choice, no?
posted by dwivian (27 comments total)
 
Just wanted to commend you for that very clever tie-in, dwivian...

(I'm also going to take this opportunity to predict that the Court is going to announce Rehnquist's retirement tomorrow. He's been on the Court for 30 years and he's wanted to retire. He couldn't do it last year -- it would have looked opportunistic after Bush v. Gore. Next year, who knows who will control the Senate, and Bush's approval ratings can only go down. If he wants to assure he'll get a Republican successor (even though we all know Justices don't hold political views, *winkwink*), now's the best time to do it.)

Sorry. Onto the topic.
posted by Tin Man at 8:13 AM on June 27, 2002


That's it, this country is going to hell in a handbasket! Wait a minute.... I don't believe in hell.

Nevermind.
posted by Red58 at 8:19 AM on June 27, 2002


Not according to this court watcher:
Speaking of the chief justice, you ask about reports he is resigning at the end of the week. Those reports are never credible. Justices who step down don't ever tell anyone in advance. The chief seems to love his job and not to have slowed a single step. Although his opinions have mellowed over the years, he's still as brusque from the bench as ever. I don't think he's going anywhere.
posted by straight at 8:25 AM on June 27, 2002


I'm really interested in reading both of todays opinions in full if ever I can locate them.
posted by revbrian at 8:28 AM on June 27, 2002




Revbrian -- Supreme Court opinions are available here. The voucher case is Zelman v. Simmons-Harris.

Straight -- Hmm. Interesting. Thanks for the link.
posted by Tin Man at 8:32 AM on June 27, 2002


Revbrian -- I'm hesitant to try this again, but here are the slip opinions of this session:
SupremeCourtUS.gov

And, if I'm doing okay, here are the actual opinions:
School Choice
Drug Testing
posted by dwivian at 8:32 AM on June 27, 2002


hee. I was coming here to post this. except I would've put it in the (second) Pledge thread---I'm not "correcting" you, dwivian---as a response to the people wondering "Will the SCOTUS knock down the Pledge ruling?"

It looked like a yes yesterday; it looks like a hell-yes today.

From John Paul Stevens' dissent: "Is a law that authorizes the use of public funds to pay for the indoctrination of thousands of grammar school children in particular religious faiths a 'law respecting an establishment of religion' within the meaning of the First Amendment?"

and: "Whenever we remove a brick from the wall that designed to separate religion and government, we increase the risk of religious strife and weaken the foundation of our democracy."

Quotes from my employer's lots-longer-than-AP's story on the ruling.
posted by Sapphireblue at 8:34 AM on June 27, 2002


John Paul Stevens said: "... the use of public funds to pay for the indoctrination of thousands of grammar school children ...."

These "public funds" are collected from private citizens in the form of taxes in the first place. Just give them back their money and let them spend it the way they see fit.
posted by mikegre at 8:45 AM on June 27, 2002


Federal money already goes to pay for religious higher education, so any internal consistency demands that religious elementary and secondary schools are included or that Pell Grants are no longer accepted at Notre Dame.
posted by daveadams at 8:46 AM on June 27, 2002


This is a really amazing year. I think vouchers is iffy on the the First Amendment, but really, it's small potatoes compared to the drug testing ruling. Amendment IV is now completely and irreparably trashed. This ruling is absolutely outrageous.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:57 AM on June 27, 2002


Federal money already goes to pay for religious higher education, so any internal consistency demands that religious elementary and secondary schools are included or that Pell Grants are no longer accepted at Notre Dame.

I think that's overstating the case. The Supreme Court has routinely drawn lines between college kids and kids in primary or secondary schools. However, the viability of that distinction, particularly in the finacial aid context, has always been questioned.

[Plus, I'm at Notre Dame Law School, and I'd like to keep my financial aid, thank you very much.]
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:27 AM on June 27, 2002


Today's was a terrific decision, which will be looked at 20 and 30 years down the line as a key turning point in urban education.

The poverty pimps and bureaucrats who mouth liberal pieties while living high on multi-generational degradation and hopelessness, have been dealt a powerful blow.

Although this door has been opened by the Court, it will take inner-city businesspeople and clergy, and, especially, courageous Black and Latino politicians, to walk through it -- the big city school district bureaucrats are going to fight for their lives on this one.

The most important thing that it will take, however, are some visionary teachers and teacher union leaders who see that parental choice and parental control can ultimately move billions of dollars nationwide from the bureaucrats into the classrooms (and paychecks!) of good, dedicated teachers.
posted by MattD at 10:21 AM on June 27, 2002


Prediction: Some students will suffer from this, some will benefit. More will benefit.
posted by straight at 11:14 AM on June 27, 2002


Straight -- of course, you're right. No public policy change is without side effects. I much prefer that a few people suffer due to failure to take advantage of educational opportunity, than many people suffer due to the denial of those opportunities in the first place.
posted by MattD at 11:20 AM on June 27, 2002


"There would be a tragic irony in converting the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of individual liberty into a prohibition on the exercise of educational choice...

This program does not force any individual to submit to religious indoctrination or education. It simply gives parents a greater choice as to where and in what manner to educate their children. This is a choice that those with greater means have routinely exercised.
"

Thomas, J in concurrence (emphasis mine)
posted by revbrian at 11:33 AM on June 27, 2002


Why? Is this "tell each other we're right" day? Honestly. Why do you think that? I'm not being Mr. Smartypants. Thanks.
posted by raysmj at 11:34 AM on June 27, 2002


Addressed to Matt D and his "of course you're right" thing. Sorry.
posted by raysmj at 11:35 AM on June 27, 2002


Reasons vouchers and this Court opinion are bad:

(1) Unless vouchers are available only to low income children, we've just written a check ($2250 in this case) to every student (most of whom are already from relatively wealthy families) already attending a private school. Some will say "good, those are my tax dollars" - which is, of course, a terribly short-sighted view of taxation. Most people pay taxes for services they do not use (parks, buses, libraries, and, yes, public schools). That's the whole idea behind a society - everyone pitches in for the good of the community.

(2) Even if the voucher is worth $2500 and Bush kicks in a tax break, as promised, for another $2500, that's still only $5000 a year. Is there even a decent private school in the country with a tuition that low? Besides, I have a sneaking suspicion that lots of private schools will suddenly decide the time is right for a tuition hike, either for monetary gain or just to keep the icky poor/minority kids out.

(3) The more money a private school accepts, the more likely it is to be considered a public institution, thus opening it up to state and federal regulations on teacher certification, curriculum, funding, etc. This will prove especially troublesome for religious schools who may have to allow increased government intervention in school policies.

(4) There will very shortly be an explosion of fly-by-night private schools, each promising relief from the ills of public education, each motivated by a desire to make a buck. Many of those schools will have inexperienced staff, insufficient facilities, or downright fraudulent leadership and be unable to match the education provided by public schools. For many examples, see the charter school system in Texas (charter schools are publicly funded schools not subject to many state regulations -- the money comes from the school district the child would otherwise attend; in other words, they operate much like vouchers).

(5) Private schools are not subject to the President's precious "accountability" standards. All of the yearly testing and exit exam requirements do not apply to private schools.

(6) The money lost by public schools may prove devastating to many good schools as students/parents are lured away by the promise of a better education. The drain on Houston schools from surrounding charter schools has already caused problems. There are so many fixed costs for large school districts (facilities, staff, bonds, etc) that the loss of too many kids will cause some schools to shut down. This is only a good thing if the kids are getting a better education at a private school.

Conceivably, students in the future will be faced with choosing between a crumbling public school that can no longer pay its bonds and rent, parochial schools that offer a good education but at the cost of religious indoctrination, or sketchy private schools who are secular but face the same problems as the underfunded public school down the street.

Bottom line - some government programs just shouldn't be treated like a business (ie. profit motive). I think all of this time and energy and money would be better spent on improving our current system of public education. It's no secret what makes a school and a student successful: small classes, individual attention, access to technology, and community involvement. If only we had the political will to make that happen.
posted by conquistador at 2:04 PM on June 27, 2002


"Unless vouchers are available only to low income children, we've just written a check ($2250 in this case) to every student (most of whom are already from relatively wealthy families) already attending a private school."

Why is this bad? Shouldn't everyone get their tax dollars back? I would prefer a tax credit to a voucher, though.

"That's the whole idea behind a society - everyone pitches in for the good of the community."

That sounds like a pretty voluntary community to me, not the kind that people are forced to take part in, with forced taxation and compulsory public schooling.

"Even if the voucher is worth $2500 and Bush kicks in a tax break, as promised, for another $2500, that's still only $5000 a year. Is there even a decent private school in the country with a tuition that low?"

That's a lot of money for a decent private education in the midwest, and for most families it would be more than enough to pay for it. When I attended a private, non-profit school in downtown Dayton, there were quite a few poor students there on scholarship anyway. People will find ways to make it work.

"The more money a private school accepts, the more likely it is to be considered a public institution..."

I totally agree, which is why vouchers are bad (tax credits good), the same thing happened with colleges and federal grants, after receiving grants, private institutions had to start following things like Title IX.

"Private schools are not subject to the President's precious "accountability" standards. All of the yearly testing and exit exam requirements do not apply to private schools."

Dear God, NO! Bill Bennett, save us! :P

The money lost by public schools may prove devastating to many good schools as students/parents are lured away by the promise of a better education.

Public schools waste a huge part of their budget on administrative costs, many private schools avoid these costs by streamlining their administrative processes (read: firing unneccessary administrators). Public schools can't do this easily.

"There will very shortly be an explosion of fly-by-night private schools, each promising relief from the ills of public education, each motivated by a desire to make a buck. Many of those schools will have inexperienced staff, insufficient facilities, or downright fraudulent leadership and be unable to match the education provided by public schools."

If that does happen, it will be a very short term thing, but I would argue long term, education will improve. Even these new schools would be able to outperform the horrible education provided in many troubled inner city schools (it is the rich public schools in rich communities which have the best programs, it stands to reason that equivalent private institutions would quickly take their place). I have responded to other questions raised by your post here, I don't want to repeat myself too much.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:32 PM on June 27, 2002


Anyone who thinks they know how this will change the school universe is fooling themself. Public education will likely get leaner. As it should. It would seem in most places, from the grostequely overfunded NYC school system, to affluent suburbs, school budgets bloated.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:52 PM on June 27, 2002


Public education will likely get leaner.

Or perhaps not.
posted by rushmc at 3:22 PM on June 27, 2002


Whoo-ee! Twenty-two hundred bucks! I can send my daughter to kindergarden with that. Well, okay, yeah, with that and another $11,000 on top. But that big two G will go a long way towards paying her bus fare to the rich white part of town and back.

I don't get these quarter-assed measures. Either finance "private" education, or don't, but please don't waste people's time pissing on their shoes with this kind of chump change. Keep your two large and spend it making public schools not suck. They're completely broke and maybe two grand will get a school enough money for some textbooks. Kids ought to have those, and they currently don't.
posted by majick at 3:46 PM on June 27, 2002


If $2,000 vouchers don't produce results, or more kids end up being hurt them helped, then, the politicians can repeal them.

All this decision did was liberate politicians to choose whether or not they would have broadly-acceptable vouchers.

Just as there are many kinds of successful schools, and many kinds of unsuccessful schools, there will be many kinds of successful voucher programs, and many kinds of unsuccessful ones. As long as parents have the choice, then there will be a degree of quality control and accountability that no amount of bureacracy can replace.

(In my view, there is no inherent justification for school districts at all -- each public school could easily be its own non-profit with a board elected by the parents buying the services provided by school districts from a competitive marketplace of providers, bus companies, architects, curriculum consultants, what have you. The full amount of the per-child educational subsidy would be given as a voucher to the parent to spend as tuition wherever they liked, with the former public schools required to accept the voucher as tuition-in-full.)
posted by MattD at 4:05 PM on June 27, 2002


with the former public schools required to accept the voucher as tuition-in-full

So another un(inadequately)funded mandate? Leaving the schools the only recourse of cutting services (i.e., providing an inferior education) to try to stay in the black?

And this is better (different) than the public school system how?
posted by rushmc at 4:31 PM on June 27, 2002



If $2,000 vouchers don't produce results, or more kids end up being hurt them helped, then, the politicians can repeal them.


Yeah, I'm gonna expect that to happen. The wealthy won a decent sized tax break. Those who already can afford private schooling are getting a few grand back and they will fight tooth and nail not to lose that - ever.

This is much like breaking a monopoly. Cheap knock-offs will flood the market and if we're lucky something good might come out of it. In the meantime I feel sorry for the kids who are stuck in even more underfunded public school because mom and dad can't pony up another 4 grand to pay for a Catholic school or the kids sent of to the new Cut-Rate education centers that will soon be filling strip malls.

Regardless of what side of the fence you're on in this, you have to admit its a HUGE gamble. In a dozen or so years we could have tens of millions of illiterate or highly undereducated people entering a workforce that doesn't have a place for them.
posted by skallas at 5:55 PM on June 27, 2002


Children being taught in a traditional Buddhist school might not say "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, because many strains of Buddhism don't believe in God. They believe in attempting to follow the Buddha's path to enlightenment. I guess this means that little Buddhist kids can only grow up to be loyal Americans if they forsake their religious beliefs, and that Buddhists are by definition disloyal. So much for religious freedom.
posted by sheauga at 7:08 PM on June 27, 2002


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