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School vouchers: I still don’t understand

I just came across this little editorial in the Washington Post that touts school vouchers and worries that President-elect Obama might eliminate them. I’m a generation past worrying about vouchers and my son’s education, but I decided way back then that I didn’t like them.

applebookWaPo seems to be working off the premise that the well-to-do will simply move to the school district of their choice to escape failing or inadequate schools; to “level the playing field,” the poor, who can’t afford to move, get vouchers so they too can go to the schools of their choice. Isn’t it working at cross purposes to finance vouchers with tax dollars, enabling students to leave failing schools, while at the same time spending tax dollars to keep those schools operating? You might as well just close those schools and use the money to send all the kids to other schools. That, of course, will overcrowd the schools they move to. How do you get around that, assuming those schools can and will accept a bunch of new students?

When my son was in school, we lived in a middle-class neighborhood with average neighborhood public schools which my son attended. When it became apparent that he was not being challenged enough by those schools, we decided to make the financial sacrifice and send him to a private school. We chose to pay the private school tuition in addition to our taxes which were still financing the public schools. At that point we were, by choice, paying double for one education; our son was in a private school but our tax money was still supporting public schools.

Our leaving the public school system did not lessen our financial support of that system; we did not throw any funding out of balance (except, perhaps, our own bank account). So why did that create a need to “level the playing field”? Or maybe more to the point, why shouldn’t we have received a voucher, too? What am I not understanding about vouchers? They are publically funded, are they not? (Privately funded scholarships would be another matter entirely.) Clearly I must be missing something if they’ve been around for 30 years or more. Vouchers, as I understand them, just don’t make sense. Perhaps someone more familiar with the system will explain it to me.

1 Comment »

  1. Also, from what i understand, one must qualify for vouchers. In addition, children who struggle academically aren’t high on the priority list to receive these vouchers so they who most need better schools will be stuck in the falling down school.

    Yeah. i’m with you. i just don’t get it.
    ____________
    Oh good, at least I’m not the only one. Not that I have any bright ideas about how to improve schools or get everyone a decent education.

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