My Position on Vouchers

I have stated that vouchers have potential benefits to our education system and also that they do not address the core issue that is leading our education system down the path of crisis. So here is my position on vouchers.

The bills that we are going to vote on are flawed – most bills are. That being said, I will support vouchers at the ballot box and then I will work to improve the public education system. The virtual monopoly of our public schools in the arena of primary education is not beneficial to our society. That monopoly must be challenged. Only as it is challenged will we give our educational administrators the incentive to root out the inefficiency and manipulation that are pervasive in the current system.

Despite any claims to the contrary, the public education system is not designed to educate. It is designed to measure. It measures things like how many hours a child sits in the classroom – which is not related to how much they learn. I have a friend who has chosen home school because she was told that her son was in danger of not advancing to the next grade because of the number of absences he had that year. This was without regard to the fact that this child was at or near the top of his class in every academic measure of performance. Those measures meant nothing next to the butt-in-seat time where he was flirting with the legislatively imposed rules of what constituted acceptable attendance. The public education system also spends large amounts of money on academically unnecessary things like upgrading high-school athletic facilities while complaining about lack of funds. (That is just one example of spending that is completely unrelated to academics.)

Our standardized tests are more academic in nature, but the emphasis on such testing encourages the employment of every intellectual pump-and-dump scheme that can be found. Teachers do not want to lose their jobs so they teach to the test without regard to any retention after the test is administered. This is because teachers are graded (formally or informally) on a bell curve. The result is that some percentage of teachers are going to fail and some percentage are going to pass regardless of whether the entire system is getting better or getting worse. Such a norm-referenced mindset works well in the media because people understand it, but it does not work well in improving the system. I honestly believe that most teachers are interested in improving the minds of their students, but if they lose their jobs they can’t do that. Their jobs are not based on how much their students learn, but on how much their students remember on the day of the test as compared to other students. That kind of environment will eventually wear out most well intentioned people so that they either leave, become complacent, or resign themselves to the flaws in the system.

My assertion that a quality education can be had only based on parental involvement suggests one of the risks of vouchers, or any other escape from the public school system. When provided with an easy alternative, most involved parents are likely to abandon the public school system because other options (home, private, charter) do not carry all the baggage that weighs down the public education system. This leave the public schools worse off than before because it will be left to care only for those students who come from homes where parents are not involved and where there is no culture of learning. (Voucher opponents use this fact to accuse supporters of engaging in class warfare because the culture of learning is less prevalent among the poor – who’s parents are not generally as well educated as the rich.) Because of that risk, I will actively encourage people, including myself, to avoid using vouchers to leave the public schools unless it is absolutely necessary.

The educational bureaucrats must know that we have the option to leave, and that we are interested enough to vote for change. Once we have made that known we must show them that we are willing to work with them, for the good of everyone, to improve the public schools. (Utah Rattler stakes out a similar position.) We must demonstrate that leaving them to deal with those who have the least support is not our objective, just as living off our taxes and raising their own paychecks should not be their objective. (Admittedly I do not think that is the objective of most administrators, but who can resist the chance to give themselves a pay raise when their colleagues keep reminding them about how hard they work.)

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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Comments

10 Responses to My Position on Vouchers

  1. A reasoned position; I admire your stance on resisting the temptation to make use of vouchers unless a family finds it absolutely necessary to protect themselves. Consider this as well:

    While growing up, my family largely disintegrated. I was lucky enough to have a large extended family, including a large, very close LDS household which welcomed me into their family whenever I needed them. I never did adopt their beliefs, which they offered to me without pushing and without quiet reverence, but their love, kindness, tolerance and humility affected me in ways that few things have.

    If you are raising well-adjusted children and are active in their schooling and their life, perhaps consider the situation from the perspective that you can be there to help others, and that others may just have something to teach your children and you something as well.

    DS

  2. David says:

    Thanks for giving that perfect example of what we have to gain by not joining a rush to leave the public schools.

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  9. Brack says:

    Here is great response to the oreo ad:
    The REAL oreo voucher ad

  10. David says:

    Thanks Brack. It’s easy to wonder why such a high percentage of school funding goes to overhead costs and that was a good illustration of where the money goes. It fails to account for the fact that fewer students means that there is less demand for the common resources such as computer labs and extracurricular activities.

    Neither Oreo add tells the full story (how could they) but it’s nice to see that both sides have been able to display their viewpoint to the public. (And Nabisco is happy that they used Oreo’s to do it.)

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