“Another example of the educational inequality is the current debate over publicly financed school vouchers which will provide educational opportunities to a privileged handful but deprive public schools of desperately needed resources.”- Bobby Scott (Representative, Virginia)
“And before our current legislature adjourns, we intend to become the first state of full and true choice by saying to every low and middle-income Hoosier family, if you think a non-government school is the right one for your child, you’re as entitled to that option as any wealthy family; here’s a voucher, go sign up.” Mitch Daniels (Indiana Governor 2005-2013)
These two quotes represent the battle lines in the voucher debate. One purports that taking tax dollars away from public schools for private ones will harm public education. The other purports to give equal opportunity for poor people to access better education.
The hope on one side is that given enough time and money, ALL public schools can provide a good education. On the other side, the hope is that vouchers will threaten public schools’ existence, and thereby the competition will cause poor school systems to improve.
In Indiana, a school voucher study has shown: “Our research also indicates that voucher students begin to recoup their academic losses in their third and fourth years of attending a private school. Students transitioning to a private school may need time to acclimate to what are usually more rigorous academic standards and higher expectations for homework and schoolwork.”- Indiana’s Choice Scholarship: Participation & Impact on Achievement.
In Washington DC voucher schools, academic results demonstrated: “In short, the best evidence available to this point shows that in terms of the test score measures emphasized by advocates and incorporated in the legislation, there are no significant net benefits from the effort even though families who chose and followed through over the years are likely to be strongly committed.”
In New York City, evidence exists that reducing the size of school populations significantly impacted graduation rates. “New York City pursued a policy in 2002 that “closed many large, comprehensive high schools with a history of low performance” and opened hundreds of small secondary schools of choice. This was not without controversy, but research has shown that the program “markedly increased high school graduation rates for large numbers of disadvantaged students of color” as more students earned the rigorous Regents diploma.” – Center for American Progress.
While the two political sides continue to advocate their positions with many examples and conclusions, the fundamental issue comes down to “what does an American citizen expect from an educational system?”
Is it a surprise that different segments of society have different expectations of public education? Is it a surprise to anyone that the purpose of public education is to provide the community and society with a pool of young adults with enough education to fill jobs available in business and industry? Is it a further surprise to anyone that school boards are local, so local authorities can make decisions to serve the people within the school district?
Everyone thinks what is good for them is also suitable for everyone else. Local school boards sort out the needs of the community, society, and educators and produce a hybrid educational system that aligns with the population at large. The educational needs of families in rural and remote areas are far different than those who live in major urban areas. School districts reflect those differences. Not all school districts serve the educational needs of children in the same manner.
One-size-fits-all is a terrible tool to impose upon the educational system. The Trump-DeVos Voucher Plan is a plan that would not work in rural and remote areas of the United States.
“Hot Springs County School District #1 in Thermopolis, Wyoming, for example, has a total of 650 students attending the district’s one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school. It is the only school district in Hot Springs County, Wyoming, with the closest school located in another district more than 30 miles away. It serves the county of Hot Springs, which covers more than 2,000 square miles. There are no general education private schools or charter schools in the county, and the state of Wyoming does not have a voucher program.”
Echoing voices of other rural areas, the lack of private and public schools in some districts provides no voucher choice at all for families. Yet, there does appear to be a role for the federal and state governments to play in public education beyond the simple allocation of funds.
The need is tools for schools. School boards should strive to focus on quality education for all students and acquire tools to provide a better education.
Quality education has become an entitlement for American families. So has a safe learning environment.
What will the future of K-12 education look like? It’s still developing, but it appears to be a future that begins in metro areas and then spreads to rural and remote areas.
Let’s work on the future education of our citizens. The future is a collaborative effort, and no one has the ultimate solution. Let’s find a way to increase the skills and education of all students through federal and state tools to local schools boards regardless of their location.
An informed and educated population makes America a better country.
Quality Education Everywhere must become the principal driver in American education.