Curious as to what thoughts about public school education, private school education and vouchers this may bring up:
The key word on how our public school system is run is: Monopoly. Or more specifically, government run monopoly. If you want to send your kids to a different school. Too bad. If the school is performing poorly. Tough luck.
Two damaging results of having a monopoly in any industry are: First, a lack of accountability and second, little incentive for improving the product. In our public school system tax money funds the schools regardless of the schools performance. Are kids performing poorly? Too bad you still send your kids and the feds still take your money.
Would you continue to visit the same restaurant if the food was poor or the service lousy? Would you continue to purchase your next car from the same dealer that has sold you lemons in the past? Of course not. But you are expected to accept lousy service from your school. I’m not saying all public schools are lousy. That’s not the point. Some are excellent. Some of my most memorable teachers were public school teachers. The point is if you find yourself faced with a lousy school as a parent you have little choice.
A common solution proposed at improving our pubic schools is to throw more money at the problem. But does that work? Of course our schools need a minimum amount to pay for computers, teachers and other materials but does throwing more money at our troubled public school fix the root problem?
Well first, how much do we spend now?
Data for the 1999-2000 school year puts revenues for public education (k-12) at $373 billion. Divide this number by total students attending k-12 education and this works out to an average of just under $7,000 spent per student per year. In a recent John Stossel program on 20/20 he put the figure closer to $10,000. That works out to about $100,000 education after completing high school. Are American students getting $100,000 worth of education out of our public schools?
So, the question remains. Do we need to spend more money? Seems to me without competition or accountability throwing money at the problem will have little impact on student’s performance. John Stossel recently provided an excellent example of this in an article from January entitled "Myth: Schools Need more Money." John found an extreme example in Kansas City where a judge by the name of Russell Clark ordered the government to spend billions more on public education.
John writes in his article, "Did the billions improve test scores? Did they hire better teachers, provide better books? Did the students learn anything?
Well, they learned how to waste lots of money.
The bureaucrats renovated school buildings, adding enormous gyms, an Olympic swimming pool, a robotics lab, TV studios, a zoo, a planetarium, and a wildlife sanctuary. They added intense instruction in foreign languages. They spent so much money that when they decided to bring more white kids to the city's schools, they didn't have to resort to busing. Instead, they paid for 120 taxis. Taxis!
What did spending billions more accomplish? The schools got worse. In 2000, five years and $2 billion later, the Kansas City school district failed 11 performance standards and lost its academic accreditation for the first time in the district's history."
Yes, they learned how to waste a lot of public money all while not improving student performance.
Here is another argument against spending more money. If spending more money will help then how is it possible for other nations, which spend far less on their students, to routinely outperform American students?
Furthermore, Jay Greene, author of "Education Myths" has this to say, "If money were the solution the problem would already be solved…We've doubled per pupil spending, adjusting for inflation over the last 30 years and yet schools aren't better."
Here's the simple truth. Just like my government run grocery store idea would be inefficient at delivering quality products at reasonable prices to store shelves in our neighborhood, our current method of running public schools is not the most efficient way to educate our children. And I'm afraid it shows. Monopolies are not efficient. Competition is stifled and government agencies waste money. The laws of capitalism and free markets, the very engines that drive our current economy to the envy of the world, are squashed in favor of mediocrity.
Ask yourself what does the government run efficiently? The IRS? Immigration? Or maybe the long lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles. We all know the government is excellent at wasting your money. Putting bureaucrats and large sums of your tax money in the same room is a sure fire formula for waste. Couple that with a monopoly which ensures lack of competition and death to innovation and what do you have? Our public schools.
In America we have an abundance of choice on where we can live, what we eat, the type of job we want to do, where to vacation, what music we listen to, our healthcare, what car to drive, where to shop but when it comes to our children's education your choices can be very limiting.
A possible solution to ease the problem might be to interject some market competition and free choice. Enter the school voucher.
‘Vouchers’ are a means of implementing school choice. That is, parents are given a ‘voucher’ by the school district, which entitles them to, say, $5,000 that can be applied to their school of choice. So, if you want to send your kid to a private school this voucher can be applied to the tuition. The value of the voucher is generally lower than the cost of one year of public education.
But guess who stand in the way of you using your own tax money to send your kids to a school of choice?
Yes, that was our good friend Hillary Clinton speaking in February 2006 about the dangers of parents sending their kids to a school of their choice. Clinton, uses scare tactics to give the impression that kids will be sent to “School of the Church of the White Supremacist” or the “School of the Jihad.”
School vouchers would be used to send kids to accredited schools. Just like private schools operate today. There are no accredited private schools called “School of the Church of the White Supremacist” or the “School of the Jihad” operating in America. I think she is confusing America with Iran. The only difference with a voucher program is the parents get some tax money to help pay for the tuition. In many, many cases the government would be returning your own hard earned money. Remember, that $7000 per student is tax money collected from you – whether you send your kids to public schools or not. If you make the choice to send your kids to private schools – are you not entitled to have your own money returned?
Anything that takes money away from the government pisses Democrats and liberals off. They hated Bush’s social security reform because it provided the option of choice by allowing you to take a lousy 2% of your own money from the pockets of politicians – placing back into your hands. They hate that. They harp about Bush’s tax cuts. And they dislike returning your money for sending your kids to a school of your choice.
In a recent example in Florida, Republican Gov. Jeb Bush offered students whose public schools fail the state's grading system at least twice in four years the opportunity to take advantage of a voucher program called "Opportunity Scholarships". The students could use the money toward tuition at private schools, including religious ones.
Palm Beach County Republican Party Chairman said, "School choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century,"
But opponents say the vouchers siphon state money from precisely the public schools that most need it, funneling it instead into private schools that don't have to meet state standards.
Hillary Clinton makes the same case on her senatorial web site; “In addition, I strongly oppose voucher schemes that divert precious resources away from financially strapped public schools to private schools that are not subject to the same accountability standards."
Florida ACLU director Howard Simon makes it clear that returning money to the people is not the right answer but, “to get about the difficult business of improving the public schools for everyone.”
Translation: I don't want to erode the government monopoly or the power of the teachers union.
Well ACLU and Hillary Clinton not everyone wants their kids sent to a school that performs poorly. Why should parents settle for a school that is failing them? Whose money are we spending anyway? The people’s!
Furthermore why reward failing schools? In the business world a company severs the people and it must continue to serve the people better and better or else it will die. But in this case we reward poor schools by throwing more money at them. How much sense does that make?
Well after a six-year legal fight, the FL state Supreme Court struck down the voucher program just last month. Bush and some influential Republican legislators have vowed to revive them. You can bet Democrats and the ACLU will be their to stop them.
The message today is clear. When politicians discuss plans about reforming our public school system with vouchers or tax breaks listen to the democrats whine. The so-called party of choice does not want to empower you with choice. In their world the government knows best how to spend your money. Government knows best on where your kids should go to school.