A major part of my adult life focused on supporting children in public education. I believed in public schools as a parent, a teacher, and later as a teacher educator at the university level. I continue to believe public schools form the bedrock of democracy; the hope for all children in this country. In the last few years, when Texas reduced school funding, I began to fear any bill that would deprive schools of needed money.
It sounds progressive to favor school choice. Equally pleasing is the backing that vouchers promise to parents who want their children educated in charter, private, or parochial schools. How can one be opposed to choice? What’s wrong with vouchers? Consider these facts before taking the leap away from public education.
Currently, Texas spends an average of $9,600 per student. That sounds quite sufficient until one considers that the national average is over $12,000. This shortsightedness causes Texas to place 38th among the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Although money alone is not the perfect solution, it was due to a lack of funds that schools had to:
- Eliminate Reading Recovery, a program designed to prevent reading failure.
- Reduce teaching aides for students with special needs.
- Increase the ratio of children to teachers.
Vouchers, which sound like generous remedies for poverty, are not the answer. Research, by Diane Ravitch, found that vouchers had no positive impact in Milwaukee, Washington D.C., or Cleveland. Vouchers reduced revenue to those public schools.
It disturbs me that vouchers will be provided equally to families regardless of income. Wealthy families, who can easily afford to pay private fees, will be subsidized with taxpayers’ dollars. Conversely, the amount that vouchers will provide to poor families will not be enough to cover costs for the better private schools.
In spite of the fact that sometimes our media twists the truth, public schools are faring far better than the majority of charter and private schools. (Barrow and Rouse)
More important is the fact that public schools educate all children regardless of physical, emotional, or cognitive disabilities. Charters, private, and parochial schools have the option of refusing to accept or retain a student with obvious problems.
I feel that I must share my greatest fears.
- I see run-down public schools filled to the brim with children of poverty. In many cases, that means children of color.
- Due to public pressure, deplorable physical conditions, and over crowded classrooms with no aides, the brightest and best students will not go into public classrooms
- All of the children rejected by charters, private, and parochial schools will be returned to the public system.
- Parents of children who have been rejected will not have the time, money,energy, or perhaps the ability to participate in their children’s education.
These concerns might not sound important to parents who can provide the learning advantages for their children until they realize that the vast majority of our population, which will be educated in public schools, will make up the major population of the future. If, then, Texas siphons even more money from children in the general population, what will this state look like in ten or twenty years?
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