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Education Vouchers

One of the major issues in this year?s presidential election is that of education vouchers. If approved Prop. 38, the California ballot initiative, would provide families who decide to pull their children out of public schools with up to $4,000 (1) a year to aid with the cost of tuition for smaller, private schools. Several controversies surround this issue, however. For example, the voucher money comes from taxpayers, and if the vouchers are used to send a child to a denominational school the doctrine of the separation of church and state would be violated. What?s at stake here is basically the fate of the public school system, and the stakeholders should be city and state governments, as well as the general public.

George W. Bush supports the idea of education vouchers and feels that ?it is the right of parents, rich or poor, to choose the best education for their children? (2). On the contrary, Al Gore is strongly opposed to the use of school vouchers because they ?…drain our public schools of funding for children who need it the most-those who cannot afford to go to private school? (3). I have sided with the more liberal democrat on this issue; I believe that education vouchers would diminish further in an already failing public education system. In this essay I will attempt to convince conservatives and republicans, such as George W. Bush, that with the application of school vouchers will come the demise of the public school system.

Under Bush?s plan, if a failing school does not improve within 3 years, it would lose its federal Title 1 funding. This money would then be divided up and given to parents as $1,500 vouchers to help send their children to better schools (4). George W. Bush?s brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, has already enacted a plan similar to this in Florida. Students at Spencer Bibbs Elementary School in Pensacola, Fla., which is a magnet school for science and technology, posted incredibly low test scores (Only ?26% of it?s students scored at the minimum competency level of the state?s reading exam.? (5)). Therefore, along with students from another ?failing? school, nearby A.A. Dixon Elementary, became ?…national guinea pigs, as the first schools to lose students to state sponsored vouchers? courtesy of Gov. Jeb Bush?s A+ Schools Program. However, of the 870 students who were offered vouchers, only 60 accepted (6).

Unlike Bush, Al Gore opposes the use of school vouchers. His reasoning is simple: The application of school vouchers will take money away from our nation?s public schools and further diminish an already failing system. ?I will not go along with any plan that would drain taxpayer money away from our public schools and give it to private schools in the form of vouchers.? Those were the words of Al Gore during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. Gore believes we should attempt to revive the public school system by providing them with more resources. He also wants to triple the number of ?publicly accountable, high-quality? charter schools, require schools to provide parents with performance report cards, and hold schools responsible for their students performances (7).

Another major controversy in this issue is the possible violation of the First Amendment doctrine of the Separation of the Church and State. Many opponents of education vouchers believe that they would force parents of all religions to pay for the education of children at parochial schools with their tax dollars (8). Therefore, By subsidizing the tuition paid to schools dedicated to religious indoctrination, voucher programs violate the Separation of Church and State.

I have experienced both public and private education and I feel that public education is completely useless. Public schools need all the money they can get, and the application of vouchers would do nothing but take money away from them. In the long run, education vouchers would hurt more people than they would benefit. This would happen in a way that only a small percentage of parents are able to afford the financial burden of a private education. Education vouchers would be a good idea if they did not diminish the federal funding public schools receives. Perhaps, we should offer vouchers, and if they are accepted, continue to provide the schools who lose students with the money they would normally get if those students had remained enrolled. Or, perhaps, we should simply take the money that would be applied to vouchers and give it to public schools so that they can hire better teachers and repair (and modernize) classrooms.

I believe that school vouchers are generally a bad idea. Because I have attended both a public and a private high school, I believe public schooling to be a serious waste of time. Therefore, I cannot say that it would be a tragedy if every child in America attended private schools. I personally benefited greatly from my private school education, and I believe that had I not had that opportunity, I would not have been prepared for college. I spent my first three years of high school in a private, yet non-denominational school, and I transferred to a public high school for my senior year. Here, I felt like I had been placed back into Kindergarten. I almost felt insulted that I had to attend classes at such a ridiculous place. Kids would ditch class regularly, which wasn’t even thought of at my first school. I would hear about kids getting arrested at lunch for anything from smoking marijuana behind the gym to assault with a deadly weapon. Public education in America is in a sad state at the moment and if every parent removes his or her child from those schools they will become even worse. Public schools receive federal funding based on the number of students enrolled every year. If those numbers decline, so will the schools federal funding as well as any chance for rebuilding. Education vouchers would definitely benefit some people, especially those who have enough money to send their children to private schools, but they will seriously hurt the majority of the population who don’t have that kind of money. I’ve seen both sides of this controversy first hand and I believe that the application of vouchers would do nothing but further diminish an already failing system. We cannot simply turn our back on the American public school system as George W. Bush apparently wants to, with almost 94% of our nation?s children currently enrolled in public schools.

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