will improve education in America. Public schools are grossly
inefficient, and are not educating many of America’s youths
adequately. Schools that are run independent from local government
bureaucracy provide better education at lower cost. School choice
would allow more students to attend better schools. School choice is
a potent educational reform that is far more effective than increased
spending. The fears of opponents of school choice are factually
unfounded. School choice is necessary to improve American education.
more parental choice in education, school choice forces education
into a free market environment. As it is now, parents send children
to the nearest school, assigned to them by the school district. If a
family is wealthy enough and chooses to do so, parents can send
children to private schools. However, this family then pays twice for
one education. They still pay their taxes, and they pay the tuition
for the private school. Under a school choice plan, any parent who
decides to send their child to a private school will receive a
scholarship from the government, redeemable for tuition at
scholarship accepting private schools. The scholarship dollar amount
is far below that of the average cost per student per year at public
schools, but would allow millions of parents who cannot presently
afford private tuition to do so.
If a school
performed poorly, parents would choose to remove their children, and
then send to them to better schools. If a school began losing all its
students, and therefore all its funding, the school would desire to
improve. Under the current system, government schools get your money
whether they are doing a good job or not.
was one of the first people to propose a school choice plan. Since he
did so over a quarter century ago, support has expanded rapidly.
However, few plans for school choice have actually been enacted. The
city of Milwaukee enacted a program designed by future choice icon
Polly Williams. She asked the simple yet brilliant question, “Why
not allow tax dollars to go to the schools that are working?”
(Harmer, 162) The plan does not allow religious schools to
participate, and allows only low-income children to take part.
Schools that participate can have no more than 49% of their students
are scholarship receiving students. The extremely limited scale
demonstration has had little effect on Milwaukee public schools, but
has enabled many students to attend better schools. The number of
students in the choice program has grown every year, in 1990 there
were 341, in 1994 there were 846. (McGroarty, 36)
In California in
1993, the Parental Choice in Education Initiative was placed on the
ballot. The initiative was defeated by more than 2 to 1. However,
proponents were outspent by a factor of 4 to 1. Unions such as the
AFL-CIO, Nation Education Association, and California Teachers
association raised over $17 million. Proponents raised only $4.1
million, and were left with only $2.5 million once they got the
initiative on the ballot. (Harmer, 147)
attempted to physically prevent people from signing the petitions to
get the initiative on the ballot. People deliberately signed the
petition multiple times to hamper school choice efforts. One person
signed 23 times. Principles and teachers sent home anti-school choice
information with children. School boards, such as that of the Los
Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), illegally used public funds
and forums to send an anti-choice message.
standpoint of well to do Washington, D.C. suburbs, a school choice
plan may seem unnecessary. Choice plans are not designed to help the
upper-middle or upper class children. David Harmer wrote, “In my
travels as president of the Excellence through Choice in Education
League (ExCEL), I rarely met rich white suburban Republicans who were
desperate for alternative schools.” (Harmer, 114) They already get
a good education from government schools. However, rural poor and
inner-city children do not have that luxury. For example, in the city
of Milwaukee, only 40% of freshman will eventually graduate from high
school, and the average GPA for students is a D+. (McGroarty, 30)
School choice plans would help these students the most.
The people most
involved in the education system are the ones who most easily realize
the problems of government schools. The Wall Street Journal wrote
that, “The California State Census Data Center, after analyzing the
1990 Census, found that about 18.2% of the state’s public school
teachers send their children to private schools. That’s nearly
twice the statewide average for all households, which is 9.7%”
exam scores have been dropping across the board, and the US often
ranks dead last in international comparisons among industrialized
nations. From 1960 to 1992, the average SAT score dropped 76 points.
If one were to include the reenterings of the SAT test, scores would
drop even further. (Harmer, 19) The landmark study by the National
Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk, claimed,
“Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in
education, in literacy, and in economic attainment. For the first
time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one
generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach,
those of their parents.” (Harmer, 25)
academic failure, public schools are failing to produce good
citizens. According to a Tulane study, 20% of suburban high
schooler’s condoned shooting someone who had stolen something of
theirs. (Harmer, 29)
contrary to what many education reformers claim, is not to throw more
money into schools. Only one nation in the entire world spends more
money per student, per year than the US, Switzerland. Japan, whose
schools consistently outperform those of the US, spends only half as
much money per student. Accounting for inflation, per student
expenditure has increased 40 percent since 1982, and has tripled
since 1960. (Harmer, 38) The image of the “criminally-underfunded”
public school is false.
Class size has
also failed to improve education. The pupil teacher ratio declined
from 25.8:1 in 1960 to 17.3:1 in 1991. Even in urban public schools,
the ratio is as low as 17.9:1. (McGroarty, 16) The image of the over
crowded inner city school is also false.
There is no
relationship between spending and educational achievement in grade
schools. A recent comparison of per student expenditure and scores on
the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests by Forbes and
Right Data Associates found the correlation coefficient for a linear
relationship between spending and test scores to be 0.12. (This value
could range from -1 to 1, the closer the absolute value of the
correlation coefficient is to 1, the stronger the relationship.)
Where does all
the money go? In the LAUSD only 36 % of school funding is spent on
teacher salaries, textbooks, and supplies. Thirty-one people are paid
over $100,000 a year, only one of which is a teacher. Statewide in
California, only 44 percent of the people employed by the school
system are teachers. In the independent schools in California, 86
percent of school employees are teachers. (Harmer, 41-43) The
situation is the same nationwide. Researcher Michael Fisher found
that only 25.7% of funds reach the classroom in Milwaukee schools.
(McGroarty, 21) It is plain to see that throwing more money at
schools and calling it reform won’t help the situation.
Leaders of the
National Education Association and its statewide affiliates have done
much of the campaigning against proposed school choice plans. They
represent the only people who are set to lose because of school
choice: the education bureaucrats. Their jobs will no longer be
guaranteed by a government monopoly.
Many people fear
that schools supported by the new choice movements would be
fly-by-night institutions that are out to make a profit, teach racial
and religious discrimination, and condone violent behavior. However,
legislative school choice efforts have placed regulations on
independent schools. The Parental Choice in Education initiative in
California contained the following items: (1) No school, which
discriminates on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, or national
origin, may redeem scholarships. (2) To the extent permitted by this
Constitution and the Constitution of the United States. The State
shall prevent from redeeming scholarships any school which advocates
unlawful behavior; teaches hatred of any person or group on the basis
of race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, or gender; or
deliberately provides false or misleading information respecting the
school. (3) No school with fewer than 25 students may redeem
scholarships, unless the Legislature provides otherwise. These
measures would prevent fraud and discrimination. School choice does
not condone discrimination. Government already regulates private
schools to some degree, and this would definitely not decrease with
the use of vouchers.
Too many people
are under the opinion that private schools are all elite academies or
preppy boarding schools, both of which charge admission the price of
a college education. However, 95 percent of Catholic schools, and 88
percent of Protestant schools charge tuition under $2,500 a year.
Robert Genetski said, “Average cost data for public and private
education indicate that in 1990 the operating cost per student for
kindergarten through grade 12 in public schools was $4,841, compared
with private school costs of $1,902.” (Harmer, 76) The truth is
that even the poorest of parents would be able to afford a private
education with a school choice plan. In legislative efforts for
choice in California, parents would receive a voucher for half the
cost of public schools, which would completely cover the costs of
many adequate private schools.
It is true that
the government would lose money by giving scholarships to students
already attending private schools. However, the government gains
money by losing new students to private schools, since only half of a
students tax money follows the student. The students that leave after
school choice is enacted would provide a pool of money that would
more than cover current private school attendees. Furthermore, David
Harmer, author of the Parental Choice in Education initiative and
School Choice: Why You Need It, How You Get It, said that if he had
to rewrite the initiative, he would include a measure that would
phase in school choice. Each year one new grade would be allowed to
participate, starting at Kindergarten, and ending with grade 12. No
students currently in private schools would benefit from school
choice. (Harmer, 178)
school choice fear that children with special needs would be left out
in the cold, since private schools would deny them admission.
However, special education is already dealt with by a voucher type
system. Public schools cannot meet the needs of many children, so the
government sends these children with special needs to private
contractors, such as the local School for Contemporary Education.
Children who have special needs are guaranteed an equivalent
education by many state laws, and this would not change under a
school choice plan.
Edd Doerr wrote
that, “Despite repeated and misleading claims to the contrary,
vouchers are merely the latest in a long line of attempts by
sectarian special interests to channel public money to church-related
education institutions.” (Doerr, et al, 37) He conjures up images
of “government funded religious schools” that, horror of horrors,
teach religion. However, the GI Bill is constitutional! If a student
decides to spend money from the government on a religious education,
it does not mean that the wall between church and state has come
tumbling down. Today students use money from the GI Bill and Pell
Grants at religious colleges without any problem. Voucher plans are
the exact same thing, except with younger kids. George Bush even
called his school choice plan the “GI Bill for Kids.” To say that
vouchers fund religious schools is to say that food stamps are
government funding of supermarkets.
As to cultural
balkanization, school choice would not effect this at all. Religious
or racial discrimination is not allowed. The claim that society is
held together by a “common school experience” is a faulty
argument. Schools exist to teach, not for the sake of existing.
Americans respect diversity and freedom of opinion, but somehow a
diversity of ideas in education seems anathema.
send a higher percentage of students to college than do public
schools. Their students perform better on standardized tests. They
operate more cost efficiently. They are directly responsible to the
parents of their students, while public schools pay more attention to
school boards and administrators. Government schools have had a
monopoly on children for far too long. Thanks to their efforts, one
third of American seventeen-year-olds cannot locate France on a map
of the world. Only one in ten can write a reasonable paragraph or do
pre-college mathematics. Every citizen in America deserves a decent
education. School choice can make it happen.
“Bottomless Pit.” Forbes 3 November 1997: 52-3.
Albert J. Menendez, and John M. Swomley. The Case Against School
Vouchers. New York: Prometheus Books, 1996.
School Choice: Why You Need It, How You Get It. Washington, D.C.:
Cato Institute, 1994.
Milton, and Rose Friedman. Free to Choose. New York: Harcourt Brace
Daniel. Break These Chains: The Battle for School Choice. Rocklin:
Prima Publishing, 1996.
... secondary schools and 19 branches of scientific-researchand planning institutions ... Canada. Each province has its own governmentand parliament. ... -school clubs at school; each member of an after-school ... . "The Prince and the Pauper", and "A Connecticut Yankee ...
... courage, physical power andskill in fighting, and also for his ... with committee work, research, preparing speeches and dealing with the ... each study and speak about the work of a particular minister in the government ... . Both types of paper devote equal amount of ...
... and Interorganizational Interdependence." Sociology andSocialResearch. 63,24-48. Molnar, Joseph J., and ... and Row. Pfeffer, Jeffrey, Gerald R. Salancik, and Huseyin Leblebici (1978). "Uncertainty andSocial ... : Knowledge and Policy in Governmentand Industry. ...
Gun Control And Schools Essay, ResearchPaper you recently picked up a newspaper ... parents, teachers, schools or our government? Before blaming anyone we must ... stop the violence in the school. School violence is a hard thing to ...
... and drama series and according to the government ... and the Pauper". The story of changing the Prince and the Pauper ... social class, with professional and ... The Bathers and van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding ... beautiful park and an important botanical research centre. There ...