10.25.2007

Are All Pro-Voucher Arguments this.....well, bad?

First of all, two disclaimers:

1 - I do not claim to be an expert on this voucher thing. I only know what I read and what my Dad tells me.
2 - I do not have children, and if I did I would definitely consider sending them to a private school...but I would not use vouchers, I would make the sacrifice, apply for the scholarships, and in other ways pay for my own choice.

That being said, I read the Op-Ed linked to above, and I think common sense can refute most of the arguments laid out in it. So, here we go:

First of all, the title Like to make your own choices? Vote for vouchers, makes me wonder at what point we weren't able to make our own choices for our childrens' education? Can you not home school your child, send them to charter schools, or even send them to private schools now? Indeed you can...vouchers are not suddenly going to give you choices: you already had them. Don't have the money to send your child to a private school? Apply for scholarships, work with the private schools to get better rates on tuition...there are options. Vouchers aren't really going to help with that much of the cost in the end anyway. According to the pro-voucher website UtahVouchers.com you can get between $500 and $3,000 per year...which hardly makes a dent in some private school tuition bills.

Next, "It's bad for public schools," they say. Why? Supposedly, because it will bankrupt them. But I say if the financial part of this bill could make it past the Utah Legislature, then I figure I don't need a degree in accounting to realize the money part will work out.
Common sense here is as simple as knowing that the Utah Legislature does not always know best. Most of them don't have degrees in accounting either, and they operate based on politics, not common sense. Anyone can see that by taking a look at what is accomplished in each legislative session in Utah.

Utah has a lot of kids. In fact, about one fourth of our population is school-aged children. And we all know we don't spend a lot of money per pupil. Generally, that's bad. So if a private school thinks they can do better, with even less money, then go for it. Isn't this a free-market economy?
First of all....we don't spend a lot of money per pupil. So why not give more funding to PUBLIC schools? Seems the obvious answer. Secondly, the idea of the free-market economy is not that it should run based on government dollars but private dollars. Also, the school system should never be run like the economy. If it was, the least privileged and most oppressed citizens would be left behind.

Private schools and charter schools work on the idea of providing a sound general education with perks -- maybe religious, maybe a focus on science or language, generally smaller class sizes. If you want to choose that for your child, I am willing to pay some tax dollars so it can happen.
Personally, I am willing to pay some tax dollars so that every child can get a quality education that isn't influenced by religious ideologies or by schools over which the government has no oversight. If we were to better fund our public education system, we could have smaller class sizes and improve instruction in science and language. I don't want my tax dollars to contribute to the religion you teach your child. Pay for that yourself.

"Your child could be taught by a teacher without certification, or even a college degree," they warn. Guess what? A good estimate in Utah is that your child will spend an entire educational year being taught by substitute teachers before they graduate from high school. Most substitutes do not have a certification, and technically they do not even need a college degree.
In talking with a teacher friend of mine yesterday in casual conversation, she stated that she wished substitute teachers didn't need to have a degree. That indicates to me that, in fact, substitute teachers are required to have degrees in most school districts. Also, one year (if in fact that is a reliable estimate of the number of days your child's public school teachers will not show up for class) of unqualified teaching is far better than 12.

"Average Utahns can't afford the difference in tuition," the ads intone. So what if tuition was $4,000 and you, according to the income guidelines, got $2,000 toward a private school you liked for your child. Is $2,000 a year too much to pay for your peace of mind? That comes down to $222 extra a month -- less than a car payment for many people.
Honestly, $4,000 a year isn't too much to ask for peace of mind, is it? If you can't afford $335 a month, apply for scholarships or loans. People do it all the time.

We also need to realize this has, quietly, becomes a national battle. It is sort of pitting the teachers' associations (anti-voucher) against the pro-voucher people. Many other states are looking to Utah to see what will happen. Does the teacher's union have enough power to dictate your choices to you? I hope not. Besides, if the unhappy parents decided to take their children and leave the public schools, the teachers should be even happier.
The teacher's union has never dictated my choices, the choices of my parents, or your choices. We do not live in a country where we are helpless about everything from what we eat and wear to where we live and where our children go to school. This author loves to play the helpless card, but I'm sure she simultaneously believes in the American Dream...the idea that if you really want something, you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and go get it. No government handouts required.

That's perhaps the most perplexing part of this whole argument. Most of the people arguing for vouchers call themselves conservatives. Traditionally, conservatives have been against government handouts. So perhaps, on this issue, I come out on the conservative side. I believe that if you want to make the choice to send your child to a private school, that's your prerogative. That doesn't mean I should have to pay for it. It's a free market, you have choices, and I say go out and make them. More power to you. Meanwhile, without children of my own, I'm happy to have my tax dollars go to a school system that, while sometimes broken and less than stellar, still serves ALL children, regardless of who their parents are or what they believe. That's the true American dream.

4 comments:

G*Star said...

It's interesting how so many of the alleged conservatives in this debate are making liberal arguments and how liberal-leaning thinkers have taken the other side.

Family values and choice? For rural Utahns, the voucher debate is one that could end up dividing their families if they send little Johnny away to private boarding schools or to live with family near the private schools 100 or 200 miles away. Their choices are already limited, so why can't the Legislature work toward giving all of Utah's schoolchildren an equal chance?

Nice post.

SLO said...

Heidi - WOW you are so right on with this post about vouchers. I have been a public education teacher for over 20 years. I applaud your views and your courage to speak out on this. Utahns, for some "unknown" reason look at teaching school as if it should be a "service" or "calling". In actuality it is a PROFESSION in which dedicated, intelligent, and creative PRFESSIONALS make amazing impressions on chldren. You are SOOOOOOOO right about the legislature. I am personally embarassed by them. Before anyone votes for vouchers I would love it if each one would personally find out exactly how much $ IS allocated to each pupil. Thanks for the post Heidi. How well spoken you are !

Anonymous said...

Yeah. I think the whole idea that competition and the free market work is outdated already. Competition just hurts people. It would hurt public school teachers like SLO and it would hurt kids who aren't as smart. I would rather see us all the same than let others have a chance to get above the group. Do you know what I mean? That's why I love the teacher's union. I'm so glad it gave millions of dollars to turnover the stupid Utah legislators. I wish I could just shout to everyone that THE GOVERNMENT WILL FIX THIS PROBLEM. THE GOVERNMENT IS BETTER AT FIXING THINGS THAN PRIVATE BUSINESSES ARE! Education is going just as it needs to, and I want it to stay the same. Boo on vouchers!

Anonymous said...

Heidi,


My name is Barbara O’Brien and I am a political blogger. Just had a question about your blog and couldn’t find an email—please get back to me as soon as you can (barbaraobrien(at)maacenter.org)

Thanks,
Barbara