Debate time! Are school voucher programs a good idea?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Caesar753, Jun 18, 2014.

  1. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Ready, set, go!
     
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  3. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I am okay with school choice, but I do draw the line at vouchers for religious schools. This crosses a legal line.
     
  4. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    No. It would be extremely easy to essentially recreate segregation
     
  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    In some places the public schools are pretty racially segregated--not officially, of course, but in practice.
     
  6. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    We have "school choice" which I think may be a little different from vouchers? In my state any student can enroll in any school within the same district and that school will have to accept them unless they are literally over building fire codes or something (so it has to be their "home" district, but not their neighborhood school). Twice I have been in a school that everyone wants to go to, and frankly it's very irritating even in that position. We constantly have families interrupting the school day to "shop" for a school/a classroom. They get to observe classes and "interview" teachers. We also get several families that just bounce around from school to school every time someone is "mean" to their child (aka their child gets in trouble for something they actually did wrong). Not a great lesson to teach your kids, and these are obviously high maintenance families. We got a few people who transferred to us within the last three weeks of school. We also have a big overcrowding problem whereas the elementary literally almost down the street has less than half the students we do and similar resources. On the other hand, the nice thing about it is that if parents truly do hate the school, they are under no obligation to continue sending their student there. I've often heard that teaching is "different" from other service professions because the "customers" don't get to choose where they go. In this case, they do, and it kind of puts the ball in the parents court in situations that can't be worked out.

    The other part of school choice is that students can choose to open enroll in neighboring districts. However, a district does not have to accept a student who has an IEP and does not live within their district. Since the funding is different, they're able to say their sped programs are full. This has created a kind of "segregation" at the secondary level. I work in a tiny lower middle SES district surrounded by numerous very high SES, high performing districts. For some reason parents will send their kids to our elementary schools, but will move them to a neighboring district once they hit middle school. This has resulted in a big population drop at the middle and high schools. The sped population at the middle school is now around 35% (10% or less at the elementary schools) because so many gen ed students have left and sped students don't have that option. Then of course the middle school is being rated/evaluated by the state by the same standards as everyone else despite literally having over a third of their students identified for sped, and when the ratings come out this drives even more high performing students away. It's kind of a vicious cycle.
     
  7. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    What the general public doesn't realize is that any voucher or credit they would receive would NEVER cover the amount of tuition required to attend a private/religious school or another school district.

    :huh:
     
  8. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Well and many schools end up having to have a lottery anyway-so I think the concept of "choice" is misleading.
     
  9. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Why are either of those points relevant to the question at hand?

    If a parent is willing to receive less than full funding and put up with a lottery yet still prefers that option to the public school doesn't that tell you something?

    I'd also like to know how vouchers for a religious school cross legal lines. Churches are tax exempt. Individuals can receive a charity credit for donating to churches. Church funded hospitals and support organizations run all over the country with government funds getting all kinds of mixed up in them. Why should school be treated differently?

    To answer the question originally posed, I absolutely support them. Private schools are already segregated because the poor largely can't afford to attend them. Providing vouchers would alleviate, not enhance the problem. If it costs X dollars to educate a student it really shouldn't matter where those X dollars end up.
     
  10. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    As long as these 'church schools' are held accountable to the same standards and testing as all other schools, I agree they should be treated the same. Otherwise, they are completely different entities altogether.

    I also think that if they are receiving public funding, they should make religious classes an elective, rather than a required course (which it was when I was enrolled in a Christian school).
     
  11. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I do not want my tax money going to any religious organization. If I want to make a tax-deductible donation to one, that is my choice. This is my personal feeling. However, it is not the federal law. The law has the Private Choice Test, which has the following qualifications:

    • The program must have a valid secular purpose.
    • Aid must go to parents and not the schools.
    • A broad class of beneficiaries must be covered.
    • The program must be neutral with respect to religion.
    • There must be adequate nonreligious options.

    Some states may have more stringent rules regarding vouchers and religious schools.
     
  12. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    My state has both school choice and vouchers. School choice is a no-brained for me. With regard to vouchers, it is my opinion that voucher schools should have to follow the same standards and take and report test scores the same way that the public school districts do. Additionally, voucher schools should be open to all students - both regular and special ed - in the same way that public schools are. This could include dealing with students who are discipline issues or who have legal concerns in the same way that public schools must.
     
  13. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    I also have no problem with vouchers being used to send kids to private schools (religious or not). If I was a parent, I would also want my child in a private school if I lived in the city where I work.

    At the secondary level in my district, any parent that can afford to will most likely send their child to one of the many private and parochial schools in the area. Those that can't afford this have to rely on the district's school choice model to get their child into one of the three high schools that are considered "better" than the rest. With over 80,000 kids in the district, most of our secondary students do not end up attending one of those three schools.

    A school choice model, like my district has, is a moot point if the vast majority of the options are no good.
     
  14. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    Why? If the purpose of sending your child to a private school is so that they will not have to deal with the issues that interrupt and take away from instruction going on at the regular public schools; then what is the advantage of dumping these same issues on the private school's door step?

    Eventually, these voucher private schools will start to resemble the regular public schools which will force those with the means to pull their children out and send them elsewhere.
     
  15. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    Schools that accept public money should be accessible to all. I do not agree with public money being used to exclude some. And those with means will always find other places for their children to go.
     
  16. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    So, is it your position that private schools should be "free" of special ed and behavioral kids, but not public schools? So, in turn, any kid that does not have behavior or academic special needs would be "escaping" to a private school. What do you see that doing to the public school system?
     
  17. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Exactly. Why should the rest of the country pay to send your student to a school that is able to exclude others for whatever reason while their children have to be put into schools that will become increasingly ghetto-ified. If you want to send your student there, spend your own money.
     
  18. ready2learn

    ready2learn Comrade

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    Obviously not the popular opinion on here but I am against school choice.

    I have seen students leave poor schools to get away to what was considered a better school. Sadly, a lot of the issues causing the poor schools to be poor was the students at that school. Those students leaving the school. Not a whole lot of change occurred in the school the student was leaving but new issues arose in the new school.

    I will add that I have not seen any terrible schools that are portrayed when the media and politicians try to champion school choice. Not saying they aren't out there, just that not seeing these schools first hand does influence my opinion.

    However, I have worked at some rough schools that many would not want their children to attend. Those schools though have had some of the most dedicated and talented staff I have met and I would be happy to have a child of mine be taught by those teachers. I guess I am trying to say my perspective is not that those schools are bad but the community is bad around the school. The big issue facing children in those communities is the community and not the school. School choice or vouchers will not change the community.
     
  19. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I agree with a lot of what you say, but I'm going to be devil's advocate.

    You are right about those communities, and in many cases, they become vicious generational circles. The people cause the community to be poor, which affects education, which affects the students, which cause them to be poor, etc. etc. it keeps continuing.

    Allowing students to choose another school MAY help them out of this circle, and allow them to bring more affluence to their family and those the community around them (should they choose to continue to live there).

    This may better the community as a whole after successive generations.

    But this view may be short-termed because as you say, the problems tend to follow the students because they were raised in that certain community.

    But this idea of bettering the lives of a few students is at the heart of affirmative action and greater funding for schools in poorer communities. If we can break them out of that vicious circle, we might have change. Vouchers may or may not be the solution to that though...
     
  20. ready2learn

    ready2learn Comrade

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    I do realize that is the hope and the ideal situation. I think we do agree on a lot because I cannot agree with you more when you were discussing the generational cycle.

    I don't know enough of what the research says to honestly say vouchers won't help. Just from my own experience it doesn't seem like that will help. I do think what you are talking about though will take several years to see the true benefit vouchers would provide. I don't think my own experience or research on the issue has enough evidence to say for sure whether vouchers will help or not.
     
  21. greendream

    greendream Cohort

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    Heck yes I support school choice and vouchers.

    Why should your school be bound by the community you live in? We don't treat colleges that way.

    I believe that if a parent is willing to provide their kids with transportation to get to a better school than the one in their neighborhood, they should be given a shot.

    However, I wouldn't want to see the private schools be changed in any way other than the students who attend. If using the vouchers mean that the private schools have to bend to the state, then I'm against it. Once the tendrils of the Department of Education wriggle in, excellent private schools would end up being just as average-to-crappy as public schools.
     
  22. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    Where I teach, it wouldn't change a thing.
     
  23. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    I wouldn't be against vouchers if there were additional rules set in place:

    1. Families must make the decision well in advance of attending the private school. At least a year so staffing issues can be resolved at the public school with as little inconvenience as possible.

    2. Students may not "bounce" from school to school. If a student receives a voucher for XYZ academy for the year, he may not attend a public school in that same state for that same year. Previously mentioned deadlines apply as well. So if little Johnny is a holy terror and the private school kicks him out for his behavior, he doesn't get to fall back to his neighborhood public school. He either goes to another private school or becomes homeschooled.

    3. Voucher amounts are equal to the cost of educating the average child in the state. NOT the average cost of educating children. Meaning, the amount of money it takes to educate a healthy, learning ABLED child that does not need special services. Not the cost of running a school divided by the number of students. The "regular" Joes are getting shafted with the voucher programs. They cost far less to educate than their special needs peers, money is being taken out of THEIR public school system, and the remaining special needs students are soaking most of it up.

    4. Laws requiring public schools to provide special needs services/opportunities to homeschooled and private school students are wiped away. Can't get a voucher to go to XYZ academy and still expect the "poor" public school to provide speech therapy or put you on their football team.

    5. Vouchers are limited in number, that number varies by district and are distributed through a lottery. The goal being that public schools are neither "ghettos" nor institutions for the disabled.

    6. When budgets become issues for public education, voucher amounts get slashed to the same degree that teachers' benefits and salaries do, school upkeep, textbook allowances, etc.
     
  24. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    My main objection to vouchers is that they take public money away from pubic schools held accountable to an elected school board and give it to private or religious companies that are unaccountable for how they spend the money.

    This has been going on for over 20 years in Milwaukee and the results are dismal: no improvement of student performance in the voucher schools, concentration of the most difficult-to-educate students in the public schools, and millions in public money going to who-knows-where.
     
  25. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    I agree. Accountability - both in terms of test scores and curriculum, and access for ALL students are my two main concerns. Schools that take public money should not be allowed to discriminate.
     
  26. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Thank you for the long-term perspective, Tyler B. I love the discussion in this thread, and how everyone is respectful of each other's opinion.
     
  27. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    I'm still hoping someone who has this point of view can explain to me how you think this will impact public schools when the "good" students are given public money to go the private schools and the "bad" students are filtered out. So, the public schools will essentially be a dumping ground for any students deemed undesirable by the private schools.

    If anything will expedite the demise of public schools, this certainly will.
     
  28. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    To be fair, colleges have tuition fees and entrance requirements that must be met.
     
  29. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    I totally agree Jersey. Public schools will becomes reform centers and institutions for the disabled.

    As a teacher I dread this direction. As a citizen I am terrified. I want the upcoming generation to be as well educated as possible. These people will be voting. They'll be the doctors and judges. In my experience private schools are woefully behind public schools in education. We have ONE private school in my area that I feel can compete with the public schools. And I imagine that they do because of the SES makeup at the school. These children are the kids of multi-millionaires. They would be successful where ever they land.
     
  30. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    :yeahthat:

    This is already the case with regard to charter schools in our area. They can kick kids out, and do, and they wind up...........back with us.
     
  31. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    This has been suggested in the UK. But you just have to look at the people pushing the agenda. he biggest over here is Rupert Murdoch (former Australian now American publisher) otherwise known as the dirty digger. He wants to open his own schools and sell his own published materials into hem and make a fortune at the taxpayers and students expense.
     
  32. jwteacher

    jwteacher Cohort

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    +1.
     
  33. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Unfortunately, in the US, many people do not have the ability to discern whether they are being duped or not, and easily buy into the lies spread by these politicians. People have been corralled into only reading things from specific non-legitimate news websites and believing them as fact.

    Hence why we're still dealing with a lot of things which are controversial on this forum but not elsewhere in the developed world (creationism, gay rights, anti-vaccination, etc.)
     
  34. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I think this is the ultimate goal of the current corporate reform movement.

    They like to point out the countries that outscore the US on tests, but don't bother to mention that no nation in the top 50 use charters, vouchers and VAM to "improve" schools. The top-scoring countries use strong, well-funded public schools with highly qualified teachers (not 5 week Teach for America-type educators).
     
  35. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    The solution to people being duped by politicians is greater political influence over the educational system?

    That's the argument I just don't get. On the one hand people argue that vouchers are fine as long as the private schools meet politically set standards then on the other hand they argue that politics is ruining public education. I don't think you can have it both ways.

    Well, that and the idea that corporations aren't already profiting greatly under the current system. Pearson is in so tight with politicians and local school boards that they can sell an entirely new curriculum to them just by slapping a COMMON CORE sticker on the front cover.

    I'd far rather let individual parents decide if their local school is doing its job than some bureaucrat who hasn't seen the inside of a classroom in decades.
     
  36. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Quite a number of communities have voucher programs, but not one was ever put into place by voters. All were imposed by legislation. The one in Milwaukee was put into place in 1990 and has given parents the choice of putting their students in schools that perform lower than the public schools they are supposed to replace.

    Milwaukee has some of the lowest test scores in the nation, just a touch better than Detroit.

    Yeah. Let's take money from struggling public schools and give it to unregulated voucher schools. After all, would anything good happen if the public school had a library, nurse, small class sizes, computer lab, counselor and other resources to address the needs of its student body? Nah. Let's give it to for-profit schools and religious schools.
     
  37. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I would have to say that it's a certain brand of politician that people have to be most wary of. The ones who try to take education and turn it into a business. The other brand of politics are usually more concerned with putting education back in the hands of the teachers and education specialists.
     
  38. Rebecca1122

    Rebecca1122 Comrade

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    I teach in a parochial school that accepts vouchers. I like the voucher program from that viewpoint because I see kids come to our school that wouldn't have typically been able to afford it and it makes a huge difference. Is our school right for everyone? No. But there are a lot of things that we do differently from local public school and even from other local parochial schools that makes it a good fit for a lot of kids, and some of those kids are 'voucher kids'. I like that vouchers give everyone the opportunity to attend our school more easily, although even before vouchers we had a lot of scholarships available.

    ETA: We also have to follow all regulations set forth by the state (standardized testing, standards, etc.)
     
  39. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Perhaps I am too cynical but I do not believe the politicians you hope for exist in big enough numbers to ever have an impact.
     
  40. Merc

    Merc Rookie

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    My district has open enrollment and school choice. All its done is cause chaos. Most students never really get their first or second choice schools. Some schools become the places of last resort, dooming those schools and the students that attend them. Some of the very poor are also not in a position to ensure their kids are placed in good schools.

    I've also watched the charters drain our district of funding. They cherry pick our best students. If they can't handle a student, they wait till October 15th and send them back to us (by waiting to the 15th, the state allows the charters to keep the funding that was attached to that student). No charter wants students with IEPs, 504s or ESL needs. Meanwhile, as the charters drain our resources, we have to close programs and reduce the staffs for those students.

    I think vouchers are morally wrong. I think the nation needs to have a conversation with itself and ask have we really done everything in our power to make sure all public schools are successful before we start pouring more money into more "reform" agendas.
     
  41. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    This is exactly how I feel. Our country needs to make sure every public school has the resources it needs to help all students learn to the best of their abilities. This is going to cost money: librarians, PE teachers, art teachers, counselors, social workers and so forth.

    The USA is the only country of the top 50 democracies (with the exception of Israel and Turkey) which spends less money on the education of the poorest students.
     

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