Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 26, 2009

THE REST OF THE STORY ON VOUCHERS.... The Washington Post editorial board, which has supported public funding of private school tuition for quite some time, has yet another item today urging Democratic lawmakers to invest federal funds in the D.C. voucher system.

The Post notes a survey that shows parents of students who receive vouchers are, among other things, pleased with "the freedom to choose where their children go to school."

We hope that, despite his stated reservations about vouchers, President Obama includes money in his upcoming budget to safeguard the interests of children in this important local program and to preserve an unusually rigorous research study. Mr. Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, say they eschew ideology in favor of what serves the interests of children. Here's a chance to help 1,716 of them.

What the Post piece neglected to mention is that the D.C. voucher program that the editorial board is so fond of is a complete mess.

In October 2007 we learned that after Congress handed over tax dollars to unregulated private schools in D.C. without conditions, taxpayers ended up financing unaccredited schools, "unsuitable learning environments," schools with no operating permits, and schools where teachers didn't even have bachelor's degrees. Worse yet, a report from the Bush administration released in June 2008 found that students in D.C. who received vouchers didn't do any better academically, either.

Of course, it's not just Washington, D.C. As Greg Anrig recently explained in a terrific piece for the Washington Monthly, voucher "experiments" have failed to deliver the results proponents expected, and as a result, a lot of conservative activists are slowly but surely giving up on the idea altogether.

But not the conservatives on the Washington Post editorial board.

Post Script: As for the notion that parents of students with vouchers like "the freedom to choose where their children go to school," this may be true. Of course, these parents already have this "freedom," but can't afford to pay private school tuition.

I'm looking forward to Post editorials, though, in support of these parents having the "freedom" to choose federally-funded healthcare for their families, federally-funded housing for their families, federally-funded nutrition for their families, federally-funded transportation for their families, etc.

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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see? i knew the buzz-kill was coming.

they get away with spewing the nonsense about the joys of "freedom of choice" with schools because if you say, "yeah, but what about the cratering budgets of public schools," they put their fingers in their ears and say, "la la la."

these discussions about vouchers exist only in a vacuum because when they come up against the realities of actual schools, the arguments for vouchers sound even more stupid.

as a childless person who pays local taxes and, by extension, pays for my local schools, it righteously pisses me off when these a-holes start talking about "their" money.

well, wtf.

if and when tuition vouchers come to a school district into which i pay, you can be damned sure i'll be demanding a rebate for the money NOT spent on my behalf.

Posted by: karen marie on January 26, 2009 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

I love how conservatives love the buzz phrase "freedom of choice" only when it applies to issues thay they hold dear, but will freak out when "freedom of choice" applies to supposed "liberal" ideals like abortion and doughnuts.

Posted by: Dan on January 26, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

What the Post piece neglected to mention is that the D.C. voucher program that the editorial board is so fond of is a complete mess.

Meh. So's the DC school system. I'd like to see some rigorous comparison of the two before condemning vouchers. Parental happiness isn't nothing--one suspects that they will be more likely to be involved supporting the school (though I'd like to see evidence of this as well.)


Posted by: TW Andrews on January 26, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Why do conservatives support such a huge new entitlement program? Is it worth that much to them to destroy public schools?

Posted by: kc on January 26, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

The Washington Post editorial board, which has supported public funding of private school tuition for quite some time

I'm sure Kaplan has an interest in this somehow.

Posted by: PeakVT on January 26, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

It is my understanding that a 'voucher' to an expensive private school is for lower income parents about as useful as a discount coupon for a large yacht--if you can't afford to make up the remainder of the tuition and expenses, a discount coupon (which is what the voucher essentially is) is pointless.

Posted by: Varecia on January 26, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

In Los Angeles, private school educations for high school have tuitions that start at $10K per year, which is more than I paid for MIT, back in the day (1980s). Some reach as high as $20K, which is more than the(federally-funded) research grant that supported me at Cornell was back in *its* day (1990s).

Parents struggle and scheme to pay these tuitions because many of the alternatives from the public sector simply are not delivering educations that engage the students or prepare them for the future.

Those parents who aren't able to pay the private school tuitions or who understand the benefits of a large, well-run, diverse school frequently elect to move to neighborhoods with better public schools (and pay a premium in real-estate for the priviledge, albeit one they can a) write off on their taxes (federal subsidy alert) and b) hopefully recoup with the sale of their property (or so the reasoning went back in the day....)

My personal experience with the school selection issue was terrible. I began with public schools but in the end I did elect to go private because I had the funds to do so and the alternative was unacceptably bad.

That said, I would still think that there are more effective ways to spend public dollars on education than on private school vouchers -- more investment in pre-K courses such as Headstart, more investment dollars in teacher's salaries and training opportunities, more investment dollars spent on school infrastructures and supplies (computers, ISP....), more investment dollars on parenting classes such as "Baby College' (look it up) to set the expectations of what the schools need from the parents, more investment dollars on "frills" such as arts education, counseling and vocational training....yet none of these topics ever seems to be mentioned as part of the school voucher debate.

It's always about "freedom of choice" in education usually bleated by the same people who try to limit choice in other areas. If there are any school voucher fanatics on this website, let me tell you that you only get freedom of a few choices in this life: To fund my kid's education I stuck it out for years at a job I didn't like for a guy I didn't respect in an industry I'm not all that passionate about. That was my choice -- but I did it for my kid. I wouldn't necessarily do it for yours.

PS Even the most expensive schools will fail to give your child an education if you aren't watching them like a hawk. Adolescents are difficult and most are not overly fond of education.

Posted by: Westside Buppie on January 26, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

As Greg Anrig recently explained in a terrific piece for the Washington Monthly, voucher "experiments" have failed to deliver the results proponents expected, and as a result, a lot of conservative activists are slowly but surely giving up on the idea altogether.

It'll never happen. You can't refute a theology.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on January 26, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

"Is it worth that much to them to destroy public schools?"

it's worth that much to them to destroy public everything -- not just schools.

Posted by: mellowjohn on January 26, 2009 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

... voucher "experiments" have failed to deliver the results proponents expected ...

Voucher "experiments" never had any promise at all to produce educational benefits, because the voucher "idea" was never an idea about improving education. It was an "idea" about making government smaller. (It failed at that, too!)

Expecting the voucher "experiment" to produce educational benefits is like expecting to make chocolate chip cookies with Vidalia onions.

As they say up in Maine, "You can't get there from here."

Posted by: Jack Lindahl on January 26, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Voucher programs seem to have one outcome: the destruction of our Public Education system. I don't want my tax dollars to help pay for this destruction...particularly when it does NOT equate to educational gains.

Posted by: Evergreen2U on January 26, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Why do conservatives support such a huge new entitlement program? Is it worth that much to them to destroy public schools?

AFAIK, most voucher proposals take money that goes to public schools (and nefarious teachers unions) and gives it to poorly accredited school run by graduates of Oral Roberts University. As far as conservatives are concerned, it's win-win.

And it bears repeating: vouchers are there to shrink public schools and therefore gov't. It has nothing to do with education.

Posted by: inkadu on January 26, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Post Script: As for the notion that parents of students with vouchers like "the freedom to choose where their children go to school," this may be true. Of course, these parents already have this "freedom," but can't afford to pay private school tuition.

I'm looking forward to Post editorials, though, in support of these parents having the "freedom" to choose federally-funded healthcare for their families, federally-funded housing for their families, federally-funded nutrition for their families, federally-funded transportation for their families, etc

I've always wondered about this, and about why no one has made more of it. Since when has it been the working theory of our conservative brethern that public money (or, as they usually prefer, "our tax money") ought to be used to help those who lack funds get more equal access to valuable social goods? Of course, it hasn't been, so why is education different?

Posted by: CJColucci on January 26, 2009 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Oops. The second paragraph should be italicized as well.

Posted by: CJColucci on January 26, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK
And it bears repeating: vouchers are there to shrink public schools and therefore gov't.

No, vouchers exist to provide public subsidies to people conservatives like; they do shrink public schools, they don't shrink government expenditures.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 26, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

the public school system is the best way move away from the parochialism of private schools. That is, whites get to mingle with blacks, latinos, yellow and red races. This serves as a good introduction to different cultures. The voucher system would only result in the balkanization of schools. White schools would not admit blacks, black schools would be all black, etc. Also every religous group would only admit their own. This would be disastrous for the country.

Posted by: josephus on January 26, 2009 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

I think that everyone is overlooking the hidden assumption about education.

It's a product, a consumer product, just like a car or clothes or TV's etc;

Just like health care.

So...if it's a product, then one should be able to "choose" among the various products called education, ( or health care), limited only by one's income and preferences.

Commodity thinking is at the root of all this.

Posted by: evagrius on January 26, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

The best way to fund this would be to create a DC income tax for anyone making more than say 50,000, and if someone can figure out how to target that at people who work at a desk even better. After the personal tax credit, that include mostly media and the politicians they cover.

Posted by: The Pale Scot on January 26, 2009 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

We've got a knucklehead multimillionaire running around the Republic of Texas giving away money to anyone who supports vouchers. The problem, as is mentioned in the article, is that the schools that are recipients of the planned vouchers are not required to meet the same standards that schools judged deficient are required to meet. Jeb Bush was trying to push something similar prior to the last election. I never heard whether the ballot initiative to alter the Florida state constitution ever passed.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on January 26, 2009 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't it be easier to send all the dumb, poor minorities to specialized schools and leave all the voucher wanting children in place. Idiots

Rather than investing in vouchers we should be building more schools, raising teachers salaries while reducing their work loads so they have more time for a smaller group of students. Let 'em go to church schools for the religious training but invest in our school systems not in vouchers.

Posted by: bjobotts on January 26, 2009 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't they allow inner-city families to choose which PUBLIC school their kids go to: inner-city schools, Georgetown schools, schools in wealthy suburban school districts, etc.?

Now that's the kind of "school choice" I could sign onto.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on January 26, 2009 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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