Educational Vouchers


Educational Vouchers Essay, Research Paper

Educational vouchers are designed to help students receive a better quality education. They are payments by the government that allow certain students to leave poor performing public schools to attend private schools. While this may sound attractive at first, the system is really a very unfavorable way of providing education, hurting more students than they are helping them by robbing needy public schools of their money. Vouchers not only take money away from public schools, neither do they allow parental choice or improve a students learning. Moreover, they prove to be very costly. Educational vouchers should not be used due to the fact that so many negative aspects have come about on account of the voucher system.

When vouchers are introduced, most people initially like the idea that payments by the government will allow a select amount of students to attend private schools. This statement misleads its audience because the government money is actually coming from the public schools themselves, taking needed resources away from already impoverished schools. Tuition vouchers are a means of channeling public dollars to private schools and thus undermining American public education, claims the National Education Association, a chief critic of educational vouchers ( How Vouchers Hurt 1). If this happens, children who do not receive vouchers will be left in these deprived public schools where their resources have been stripped away. Therefore, vouchers are essentially making it acceptable for the government to choose who deserves a good education and who does not.

Although the many parents of students enrolled in failing schools may be interested in applying for vouchers, they must realize that vouchers will not necessarily improve their child s learning. Critics argue for the case in San Francisco public schools where the average GPA for black middle school students is a 2.12, a C, similarly in high school, the average GPA is 1.81, also a C. The NAACP feels that these low grades are do to inferior education (Hubbard 33). A recent study on the academic performance of urban schoolchildren who had the opportunity to attend private schools represents the benefits of vouchers. Among black students who received vouchers out performed their peers in other schools. The standardized tests taken were improved by an average of 6.3 points ( Vouchers Pass a Test 8). However in the study, they failed to mention the effort put forth by the individual students, or the parent involvement in the students school life. A voucher system will not guarantee an improvement. For example, Milwaukee and Cleveland, two cities experimenting with voucher system, uncovered important information that has been documented, showing no rise in student academic achievement. According to annual evaluations in the Milwaukee area by an independent researcher, John White, the voucher system shows no achievement differences between voucher students and comparable Milwaukee Public School students (Gross 157). The same results were found in Cleveland after an official study was completed by Dr. Kim Metcalf ( Back to Vouchers 2).

Implementing the voucher system does not increase educational opportunity; on the contrary, opportunity is in fact reduced. On account of the admission process, the private schools would choose to educate the easiest and ablest students through the voucher system while the more difficult and expensive to educate children would be left in public schools with even fewer advocates and resources ( How Vouchers Hurt 1). This educational inequality would lead to the escalating education gap between affluent and destitute children. According to the NEA, educational inequality has increased in Britain, the Netherlands, and Chile as a result of prolonged educational voucher use, and has made schools more inequitable than they were previously (1).

Many parents support vouchers because of the assumption that they will obtain the opportunity to choose what school their child will attend. However, the private schools actually have the ultimate say regarding which school the students will attend, and furthermore, private schools are not required to accept every type of students, as are public schools. The National Education Association reports, private schools continue to choose students whose family backgrounds, past performance, and test scores indicate they are most likely to fit into the school and succeed ( How Voucher Hurt 1). Many people are fearful of the factor that vouchers will increase segregation due to the fact that vouchers will sort students by race, income, and religion. According to the NSBA, or the National School Board Association, schools accepting vouchers can discriminate and reject students based on academics, gender, disability, national origin, religion, discipline, parent participation, and a whole host of other issues ( Vouchers 2). This brings America back into history where so many people endured and fought for freedom from inequality, discrimination and segregation ( How Vouchers Hurt 1).

Not only are students, parents, and teachers affected by the voucher system, but also every tax-paying citizen is impinged upon by this system. Public schools, supported by citizens tax dollars, are to pay for the vouchers creating the need for an increase in the amount of taxes already paid for education to support the voucher system. Even more boggling is the fact that taxpayers would pay for vouchers of the 4.8 million children already attending private schools, many of them from affluent homes, as well as for children newly enrolling in private schools (2).

If vouchers are installed into our school systems citizens will face double taxation. To provide vouchers for students already attending public schools, it will cost taxpayers an additional 5.2 billion dollars each year ( How Vouchers Hurt 1-2). This tax increase will not even cover the cost of full tuition to private schools: At an average tuition rate of 3,116 dollars per student, the tax increase would be 15 billion dollars per year ( Vouchers 2). Simply speaking, the wealthier families who choose to send their children to private schools will get a tax break, while all other families will pay for those children to attend private schools.

Educational vouchers are a means of taxation without representation. For example, private schools, unlike public schools, are not accountable to publicly elected school boards and taxpayers. Therefore, taxpayers will be supporting private schools through the raise in taxes due to the voucher system, but private schools will not have to answer to the public ( Voucher Talking Points 1). This lack of accountability can lead to serious problems like the case in Cleveland when The Independent Auditor s Report found that nearly 2 million dollars were misspent, 1.4 million spent on taxicabs to take voucher students to school ( Vouchers 2). It was also found by the NSBA in Milwaukee, that several voucher schools were shut down because issues of corruption and criminal treachery formed (2). Shutting down private schools in Milwaukee explains one demonstration of what to expect when unregulated schools are given public dollars. After the schools had shut down, the students who attended there were left stranded, the school door closed in their faces in the middle of the school year

According to the private schools participating in the Milwaukee voucher program, they are exempt from many rules; however, the public still must support these schools. Teachers are not required to obtain a certification or college degree, private schools do not have to observe the state s open meetings and records laws, nor do they have to release information on employee wages or benefits (Miner 41). Furthermore, private schools are not required to give statewide tests that public schools give or furnish reports of racial breakdowns of the students ( The Voucher Threat 1). These exemptions prove the minute accountability of private schools to American taxpaying citizens.

The separation of church and state has been a well-debated topic under the voucher system. How can teacher unions along with many others claim that educational vouchers are unconstitutional when private parochial universities and colleges are governmentally funded and after being declared constitutional by the Supreme Court? First, 85 percent of all enrolled private elementary and secondary schools are religious in the United States ( Private School Vouchers: Myth vs. Fact 1). Not all college-aged persons pursue higher education after high school. In elementary and secondary school, every child must be placed in school and it is usually the parents choice whether or not to send their child to a public or private school.

Secondly, private colleges and universities are not cheating public colleges out of money, or students. By college level, virtually every public and private college or university provides a student with similar classes and programs. Public colleges and universities need no educational reform; as do elementary and secondary public schools, because of the quality of learning both higher educations offer. Public colleges and universities have just as productive of programs as the private colleges and universities. Also, students who attend private religious colleges are usually going for the religious affiliation incorporated into the learning, or the atmosphere of the school. Many private colleges do not offer as many programs as public colleges or universities; therefore federal tax dollars are not being used to cheat public colleges and universities out of money, or students.

Thirdly, many students who receive educational vouchers will attend private schools for the educational benefits, but will inevitably and unwillingly be taught to practice someone else s beliefs. However, some schools are considering allowing those children with different beliefs, or none at all to sit out on certain classes (Gross 160). Now, does this sound like reformed education? No, and why then be a private school if beliefs are abolished? In elementary and secondary schooling, I believe educational vouchers are unconstitutional and should be eradicated.

Many people feel that vouchers will be useful to those students who are trapped in failing schools, yet possess the willpower to succeed. What some may not realize is that this system is the easy way out for the government. Yes, a few student s will benefit from a voucher system, but an even larger group of students will suffer because additional money will be subtracted from the already failing schools. Politicians need to stop talking about using money voucher systems and start using it toward education reform. The Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll found that 71 percent of Americans favor reforming public education, while only 23 percent prefer finding an alternative to the existing school system ( Vouchers 1). Obviously unwelcome by most Americans, the voucher systems have been outvoted by a wide margin in over twenty states ( Back to Vouchers 3).

Why then in Milwaukee, Wisconsin are 43 percent of public education teachers sending their children to private schools? This trend definitely illustrates the need for public school improvement. People argue that public school reformation is just wishful thinking and will never come true. I agree that we have lazy teachers inside the educational system, but why let a bad apple spoil the whole barrel? Vouchers just add to the laziness of the government to secure public schools with good teachers. Instead of throwing away the barrel, the apples should be checked before they are put in there. Results of a recent poll to vote on vouchers proves that respondents prefer improving existing public schools to providing vouchers by 75 percent to 22 percent. By 69 percent to 19 percent they prefer having competent teachers in every classroom and rigorous academic standards to so-called parental choice plans (Doerr 44). Author Martin L. Gross suggests many reform ideas that should be implemented into the school system. Following are a few ideas:

1. Raising licensing exam standards for new teachers far beyond the present 9th or 10th grade level

2. Strengthen the weak k-12 curriculum by requiring four years of English, history, science, and mathematics

3. Close all undergraduate schools of education and only those with good college grades should be eligible for teacher training

4. Reevaluate teachers after five years on the job

5. Name a different type of educator to the job of superintendent

(Gross 250-253).

Spending incredible amounts of money on a voucher program that is ridiculed more than it is praised seems irresponsible. For now, the government should hold off on educational vouchers and use the money for that system to improve and revive public education. By implementing this revival, taxpayers money will support the majority students and not just a few, restructure the public school qualifications for teachers, guarantee an enhancement in the students academic lives, and reduce class size for effective learning.

The latter has shown a recognizable impact on student achievement and can be facilitated through a voucher system. For example, Milwaukee s small class program, Vouchers vs. Small Class Sizes, is funded at the same level as Milwaukee s voucher program. However, it accommodates 13 times more students than the voucher program! Furthermore, the small class program produces better results as well according to the NSBA. ( Vouchers 3) Ohio, as well, adopted the voucher system spending 8.7 million dollars in the Vouchers vs. Small Class Size program later to find that if the state would have adopted a proven reading program, it would have only cost the taxpayers 4 million dollars.

Educational vouchers are misleading and can have a tremendous negative affect if they are put into use. Yes they may help a few students, but overall, vouchers do not provide better education where it is needed. We need not waste billions of dollars on an unnecessary program, singling out only a fraction of deprived students, but instead we should use the money wisely, eliminating the educational voucher system in order to develop proficient public schools creating an educational revival. Instead of giving up on public schooling, Americans ought to support the majority of students and all public schools, get involved and encourage the process of public school renovation. Do not be fooled by the way vouchers sound; instead support public education by turning the reformation wishful thinking into a reality.

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