School Vouchers

Discussion in 'The Late Night Cafe (off-topic)' started by panini, Jul 2, 2002.

  1. panini

    panini

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    I will be the first one to tell you I'm not up on this issue but am directly affected by the decisions.
    I'm reading all the post about the pledge not being used in schools. Separation of church and state.
    I'm of the understanding that this voucher is something that you can receive equaling your state and local school taxes and may be used for tuition at religious and private schools.
    Any info on this would be greatly appreciated, for you all are so knowledgeable about all the legal stuff.
     
  2. suzanne

    suzanne

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    It's been up to localities to decide whether or not to issue vouchers in the first place. Vouchers are not just automatically available everywhere.

    The court case came out of Cleveland. Parents received vouchers to use for paying tuition if they wanted to opt out of sending their kids to public schools. Theoretically, the vouchers could/should have been accepted by secular private schools, religious schools, or nearby suburban public schools. What happened, though, is that the secular private schools and the suburban public schools refused to accept the vouchers. Which meant that the only option left was religious schools.
     
  3. panini

    panini

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    Yes, I heard is was by locality. I guess I'm not for this even though it would benefit me financially. One of the small reasons for me using the private school choice is to keep the Gov't as far away as possible in the schools decision making. I'm all for saying the pledge,a prayer,standing when an elder enters the room and a tweek of the ear when a kid is getting a little out of control. Plus my annual school tax is about a tenth of our tuition.
     
  4. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    After having had the tar beaten out of me for no reason but the sadistic frustrations of nuns and priests, I concluded that no educator would ever lay a hand on my child. I don't think there is one bit of difference between the "tweaking of an ear" and a blood-drawing paddling. If my child requires disciplining, I will decide the method and implement it.

    As for the vouchers, I believe they will strongly compromise the public school system in areas that don't draw good teachers. For those areas, vouchers will be the last nail in the coffin. In areas where good teachers gravitate to well-kept schools with involved parents, vouchers won't make a dent because the parents aren't desperate to get their kids out of the public school system.
     
  5. suzanne

    suzanne

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    My understanding is that vouchers are a Catch-22 situation: if the school system is all right, parents will not want to opt out; they won't press for vouchers to be implemented, and so the system won't suffer. However, it is precisely the poor school systems (take the word "poor" in all its meanings) that will be the target of voucher-seekers. And as Chiff says, that will hasten the downward spiral.

    When did "planned obsolescence" spread to social sytems? When did we stop believing that broken systems could and should be fixed? Just a couple of things to ponder on our national holiday.

    On a related note: I heard a news report yesterday that a long-term study has found that pre-school-age education is very effective in preventing later delinquency and crime. The story was actually about the tide turning against the "lock-em-up-in-jail" ethos regarding non-violent crime. Wouldn't it be wonderful if education got all that money that prisons now receive? I know, I know -- dream on.:(
     
  6. alexia

    alexia

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    Pannini, what I have read/heard is that the voucher would amount to less than S2000/pa. In other words about enough to help you into a religious school (in my urban area that means Catholic, mostly).

    By contrast, a year in the lower school (k-8) in a Quaker school in this area will begins at $10,000/p.a for K-8 (the local equivalent of Ivy League in this area). I believe that the "best" schools in NYC area are far in excess of that even for kindergarden.

    Clearly the difference between the voucher and the annual cost per student in public schools which can run as high as $10,000+ per student, depending on the particular area, school district, etc. is being subsidized by the religious organization that sponsers the school.

    In many parts of the world where there is no universal public school system, religiously sponsered schools provide the only education available for many of the poor. This is a proselytizing venture on the part of the religous organization. It is unclear whether this would be allowed to be true of American schools that participate in the voucher system. If you send your child to a religious school, would s/he be obliged to participate in religious studies there? Fine if it's your religion. Perhaps not so fine if it's not.

    There are many people who oppose the voucher system because it may degrade what's left of the public schools and impede potential improvements in the public schools.

    Further, many suggest that vouchers will not give urban children access to nearby suburban schools that, it is assumed, will provide a better education. The system will be voluntary and successful suburban schools may not open their doors to inner city youth. After all, their population often is comprised of people who have fled the cities just so their children will have "better" schools (often code for no urban youth) than they would have had in the city.

    In my area, for example some of the city's magnet schools are actually as good or better than many of the suburban schools. Some of the more affluent parents who live in the city will send their children to private school k-8, then have them test into the city's magnet schools some of which send their graduates to Ivy League and other prestigious schools.

    Suburban schools all over the country are "policing" their student population to make sure that the students' family actually resides & pays taxes in the district rather than, say, sending their child to "live" with an aunt or grandparent who happens to reside in that district. To what extent this is an economic matterr only is not clear. But I doubt that such schools will find $2000/ or so pa adequate for children whose families do not live in the district.

    Others who oppose it from a religious point of view are concerned that where government money goes so goes government supervision and regulation. For example, can a religious school qualify for the program if they accept only students of that particular faith. Can they discriminate on other grounds? etc.? Will they continue to have complete control of their curriculum? Will they also be subject to the expensive system of student testing now being federally mandated?

    In our country we assume that a religious education will provide an education equivalent to or better than a public school. But is this always true? To take an extreme instance: in some of the Moslem countries these schools have become the seedbed of today's Taliband and terrorists with little education. The state there has virtually no control over them, and those schools teach little more than reading which is centered on the Koran. Do we want tax dollars supporting sectarian schools that may provide an "education" most of us would not wish to see them subjected to? On the other hand without government supervision and regulation what would prevent it? And how many who might favor vouchers want that kind of government intrusion into their sectarian schools?

    Extremism comes in all guises. To remain with the Moslem example for a moment, some of the mosques are already under surveillence because they attract if not foster people suspected of terrorism. (for example, that of Sheik Raman of the 1st World Trade bombing). Or, what is to say that the white right extreme will not have "schools" that indoctrinate children in ideologies that result in acts such as the Oklahoma bombing, or the cult indoctrinations of sects such as Waco, James Jones, etc. Do we want tax based vouchers heading in these directions?

    We cannot assume that the voucher system will not bring as many new problems in its wake as it promises to solve of our old ones. And if you don't like the tax bill now, just wait until you get the new one for the voucher system. It will not be a pretty sight!
     
  7. panini

    panini

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    This is all very interesting and I'm glad for the information you all have given.
    It is already the scuttlebutt sp? here that there are people thinking of moveing into poorer school districts to take real advantage of the voucher system. It appears that the poorer school voucher will cover total tuition at a private school. If the school is forced to acdcept. That annoys me somewhat for we for we really have to scrimp and save to pay our tuition on top of our school taxes(which I don't mind because that's my choice). Now if a financially secure family is in a poorer district,they pay 2,000. VS my 10,000. I agree that it will just bring on a whole new set of problems.
    Chiff, I'm truly sorry that you had a bad experience with your education. But the fact is, I have decided on the method and implementation of discipline. I've left this up to his guardians during the day. Now if I should dissagree with something that is done and can't get satisfaction then it is my choice to remove him from the school. My son is where he is because of my education and I vowed to try to relieve as much of the negetive peer presure for my child as I could. I personally feel that a good education is in part, a good enviornment not just good teachers.
    just my 2 cents
     
  8. alexia

    alexia

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    Pannini, I think that you are mistaken in assuming that a voucher will cover a $10,000. tuition. I believe the voucher will be for a set amount, closer to and possibly less than (1600 is what I recall hearing) $2000.

    Furthermore, I do not believe that schools will be forced to participate in the voucher program if they do not care to do so. At least that is true in Cleveland which is now up and running and the subject of the recent Supreme Court ruling. And be assured, the best schools are the least likely to participate in the voucher program. At present, without vouchers, the best private schools are picking and choosing among their applicants, turning down more of them who are willing to fork out the whole tuition than they accept. Private schools that already have scholarship programs will benefit by being able to reduce the amount of scholarship, substituting the voucher money for some of what they would have given, anyway.

    Being in a poor school district will by no means guarantee admission into a better public school district, much less into a pricy private school. Have no fear, when the smoke settles, children from poor public schools will not be there, generally speaking.

    Those who want to get a first class education at a bargain price should live in the district that has the best schools in your region, not move to marginal neighborhoods to "cash in" on the voucher system.

    Apart from the moral issue of people who have abandoned the inner city to avoid the poor now thinking of taking advantage of the attempt to remedy the problems their abandonment has in part caused, there is the practical consideration that it ain't gonna work! The voucher system is a shell game that will ultimately result in the evisceration of what's left of the public school system and the back door introduction of private companies turning our children into for-profit "consumers" of what will pass for education.

    Prediction: When we read the fine print of the voucher system, it will turn out to be all fat, sugar, salt, and chemical preservatives - with very little nutrition. Cynical, you bet. Re-form merely means to change the shape, not necessarily to make it better.

    For full disclosure: I don't have a hound in this race. Though I went to public school (which got me into a very good university), my children went to a very good private school in our area that prepared them for privilege-universities and my GD goes to a similar private school now. My heart is in having a first rate public school system, but my head tells me where to send the kids now. If we were REALLY serious about improving public schools, my vote would be for the abolition of private schools. Then people with money and power would get serious about improving the public system because their kids and grandkids would be going to public school. As it is, the people making the decisions about "reforming" the school system mostly have no personal stake in it.
     
  9. panini

    panini

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    alexia,
    Thank you for the clarification. I would love to send my son to public school but unfortunately we have the robinhood system in place here and because of high taxes coming in from hotels and businesses much of our school funds get shipped elsewhere. We happen to live in an older part of a small suburban city with no residential growth, so the newer areas get all the new schools and we're left with making our older schools tech. schools or alternitive schools. I have my son in a Cistercian Prep school now that will take him through high school.Starts in the fifth grade, All boys(which he likes now) and about 70% catholic.
    It's getting crazy out there. We are not all crazy like some parents that are building their own 'little person' corporation. This year was his first,and he seemed to enjoy it
    thanks
    If I was smart enough I would home/bakery school him. I guess if I was smart enough I wouldn't be in a bakery LOL
     
  10. mikelm

    mikelm

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    panini and, especially, Alexia, please take a look at this:

    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell1.asp

    for a completely different view of this which sppecifically addresses many of the issues raised above. Thomas Sowell is one of the most intelligent columnists in this country. He's a Harvard PHD in economics and presently a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford.

    Mike :)
     
  11. alexia

    alexia

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    Mike, As I tried to make clear in my earlier post, my doubts about vouchers were from the practical point of view of solving the parents' problem of obtaining a good education for their children, not from the point of view of maintaining the present system (such as Panini’s or my own children’s now with their children). As for Sowell, his credentials come from the temples of privatization (Stanford, the Hoover Institute). I would hope my observations are practical rather than ideological. If I thought privatization and vouchers would work, I'd be delighted to see them universal. I was educated on the public dime until college. Unfortunately when the time came for my children to go to school, it was spend lots of money for private school or move to the suburbs.

    Using the pilot programs as a guide to the future:
    First the voucher system will not help people making more than about 30K for a family of four. Second, so far they have limited children to private schools within the same municipal districts as their public schools. Third, the funding from the vouchers has so far been about 75-90% of tuition (depending upon how close to the poverty line the family is) to a maximum of 1800-2300 in Cleveland and a little more than 4000 in Milwaukee. To date even among those financially eligible, only those chosen in a lottery could in fact participate. It seems unlikely there would be sufficient places for all those eligible financially otherwise if the system were universal.

    Then there arises the question of what happens to the children of parents making, say, 35K/family of four. Public school for them unless they can ante up the full tuition?

    I do not suggest parents "sacrifice" their children on the ideal of public education. That said, I think that policy decisions of government should be to give ALL children a good education. And I believe the voucher system is a cynical attempt to SEEM like doing something to correct the inadequacies of urban schools without actually having to do it.

    There are logistical issues Sowell ignores. So many bodies are so many bodies. If they are removed from the “bad” public schools, then that might even make “bad” schools better by improving the teacher:student ratio there, which would be a benefit. But conversely, the influx of the urban poor (even were it to happen, which I doubt) into what are now selective and economically self-selecting schools may simply redistribute the problems of the “bad” schools into the “good” schools. Gresham’s law. We may find ourselves spending more money for less result.

    First there are a limited number of schools where vouchers will be enough to pay the way among private schools unless they are subsidized by some (usually) religious institution (occasionally universities will have a school that they run). In Cleveland the need was met by a couple religious schools opening to meet the voucher system needs. There the maximum voucher was less than 2300.

    Second the best of the private and suburban public schools will not take on the problems that will come with many of the urban poor. The people funding and sending their children to these schools have long ago decided to remove themselves from precisely those problems that come with poverty. Be sure they will find a way to keep themselves insulated. -- To date this consideration is mostly made mute by the fact that so far, vouchers must be used within the same municipal unit (i.e., vouchers for students from Cleveland public schools for example can only be used in Cleveland private schools, not suburban private schools, much less suburban public schools).

    Last, and not in these early stages yet an issue: from the point of view of the religious school, there may ultimately be conditions to accepting voucher students with what is, after all, public money, that some of these schools may not wish to accede to. There are within the religious community some voices questioning the wisdom of accepting government money for this or for the “faith based initiative” approach to other social problems. For example, will religious schools be permitted to require their teachers be “of” that particular faith? Will they be able to exclude gays or particular racial or ethnic people from their teachers? Muslims will have a “right” to teach in Catholic or Jewish schools, etc.? I can see the law suits now.

    My opinion is that our education system is currently based on the class system. Those who have money for the best can always get the best, those without money for a quality private education are in the position of taking what is available (which depends upon where they live). I do not say it is right. Only that it is.

    And I repeat my earlier remark that as long as those with money and/or power can separate their children from those whose families have neither, we will have a tiered system of education in which some children get the best and some get none. It know it will not happen in this country, but I believe the only real solution to the problem is a TRUE universal system in which children from families of money and power can only get a good education if ALL children do. Under those circumstances the people who could make it happen would make it happen. (The US Senator from my state lives in our very urban city. His children went to the same private school mine did, not the local public schools. If the children of our politicians and the wealthy had to go to public school, then perhaps our public schools would be better today.)

    Though for the sake of argument I have assumed that a voucher program might actually help students’s performance, there is the question of whether these programs have in fact worked. The studies so far, do not seem conclusive that there is a significant improvement in the students’ performance. For an appraisal to what really happens to vouchers check the link (google will give many more from advocates of both points of view):

    http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d01914.pdf
    seems to be the most impartial of the sites I visited

    (Edited a couple typos)
     
  12. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Do you believe that is a good solution?

    A fair solution?

    A moral solution?

    Who decides what a "good" education is?

    Who decides what makes it universal?

    Who decides the content as opposed to say, home schooling?


    Personally, that solutions scares me, offends me, and robs me.

    That aside, public education is part of our culture because the politicians believed that an educated populace was a benefit to all economically and socially. I agree, to a point.

    Not all students are equally capable nor equally interested. Therefore it is impossible to equally educate all students equally to the highest/best level. All that's left is the lowest common denominator to shoot for in a public school. This is only "fair" to the lowest level of normal student.

    The more capable students need more. Special education students need more too.

    When we add in the effects of society and money, with the effects those have on the educatability of the student, and how those groups tend to clump in our society, we get the inequities and results of public school we see today.

    Alexia is right. Public schools can not work in the US without wholesale and drastic social re-engineering. It will never happen. Because it is anti-thetical to the economic and social principles of the US. And rightly so.

    People are equal in the face of the law. They are not equal in ability or monetary heritage. Such was never the intent of the US system.

    The failure of the public schools is not so much their inability to teach students to some levels of reading and arithmetic. The failing is that the levels chosen were for an economy and society based on lots of blue collar labor. That economy is dwindling fast in the US. It's not coming back short of total economic collapse.

    Poorly behaved and less capable students take the majority of a teacher's time. In the public school, this tends to reduce the ability of the better students to learn and achieve. Which is just as unfair as poorly educated poverty classes.

    Private schools competing for students and tuition will create a range of schools reflecting the desires of the students and parents at wide raging tuition levels. But they can not compete with government monopolies.

    I believe scholarships would become available from companies for poor families to help fund the education of children who exhibit ability. Their might be a contract against future earnings or actually a term of labor to pay for their education. Or part of a jobs benefits could include non-taxable school tuition funds. Lots of things are possible in private that are not possible with the government.

    The school tax wouldn't go away entirely. It would shrink a lot. There would still be a need to minimally educate a group of the poorest. That is still a public good.

    This is about as drastically different a world as the one Alexia proposed. Except it's possible within the structure of the US. It doesn't expand government. It reduces it. It leaves choice with the parent and the student. It creates more jobs.

    It doesn't solve the class issues. It doesn't make people inherently more capable of high-tech employment.

    It's still not absolutely fair. I don't believe you could find that as the goal of public education. Public education's primary political goal is to reduce the monetary and social costs of an uneducated social class. To that end privatized industry could do it better and cheaper.

    You may well disagree with that political goal. It's not a pleasant view. But that's what the basis of public education is. We've added lots of overhead to that goal and it's killed the system.

    Vouchers. They aren't the solution. The solution is minimizing the government's role, not expanding it. Why do we look to the government to solve problems? They are inefficient, Pork driven, and wasteful. Slow to adapt. Computers have been a big part of the economy now for 25 years. Not the personal computers, true, but still, how slow have schools been to get on board with computers. The internet was started in the 60s, but is still only trickling in to schools.

    Yet industry has been adapting all along. Let's make education an industry too.

    Phil
     
  13. alexia

    alexia

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    "Let's make education an industry too."


    Wow! Thanks for lightening the discussion. Phil. Make education an industry. Where can I buy some stock?
     
  14. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    I laid it on heavy, true.

    It's really a heavy issue. My own statement about education and industry is highly simple. You could not deny that education is already an industry. It has unions, strikes and all that other stuff.
    Do we want more government industry, or less?

    Isn't government industry just Socialism? To that end, government vouchers in private schools qualifies as Facism with the government controlling production in a privately held business.

    Phil