Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Vampiric vouchers

The Indianapolis Star runs an editorial by a Catholic school teacher who believes vouchers raise the achievement of public schools. Hmmm... And from where does the evidence come, you ask? Well, from the Manhattan Institute, of course. Yes, that bastion of objectivity provides the facts, you decide.

Well I've decided. No way. A particularly telling part of the editorial though comes with the author's rundown of the history of failure of vouchers in the Hoosier State:

In 2005, with Republicans in control of both houses and the governor's office, a bill finally made it to the House floor. SB 281 would have provided tuition scholarships for poor students whose public schools fail to meet federal standards for improvement. On a vote that crossed party lines, lawmakers deleted the language due to concerns over funding. (emphasis mine)

Most moderate Republicans have realized what a disaster vouchers would be to already underfunded schools. Need more evidence? Please see the excellent article in the Texas Observer on the voucher debate in the Texas House. Take the example of one Republican during the Texas voucher war:

Roy Blake has bright blue eyes and a gentle demeanor. Like many rural reps, he’s never liked vouchers, never thought government should divert money from public schools. As a GOP backbencher in this, his first session, Blake naturally is just learning how the Capitol works. He’s best known for having been mayor of Nacogdoches when the space shuttle exploded over East Texas in 2002. On this night, however, he’s in the crosshairs. Blake is asked into the back hall for a meeting in the speaker’s office with Craddick’s chief of staff Nancy Fisher to pressure him to change his vote. He and his constituents abhor vouchers. But the House leadership and the party’s small collection of campaign moneymen could easily run a well-funded primary opponent against Blake that would unseat him or send him into debt.

This is how Republicans have pushed vouchers on other, more principled members of their own party. It's ironic how many anti-bullying bills they pushed down here, isn't it?

In GOP circles, there’s little doubt that some of the rural Republicans who defied their leadership will find themselves fending off primary opponents funded by [funder James] Leininger. Rural Republicans who voted with the leadership in defiance of their constituents might also find opposition in the primary from their public school community. Sixteen of these weak-willed Republicans lamely tried to explain away their pro-voucher votes with a statement placed in the House journal the next day. They wrote about an amendment—never offered—that would have ensured that no funds from rural school districts would be spent on the voucher pilot program. Their constituents might fall for this argument in 2006, but on May 23, Rep. Casteel and the other fighting moderates didn’t.

“If you think there are two or three pots of money up here I want you to show them to me,” she scolded her fellow Republicans.

The moderates -- in Texas, Indiana, and elsewhere -- have it figured out (sorry Instructivist): vouchers drain money from public schools. They have rightly fought them every step of the way.


Blogger Jonathan Kallay said...

You are right in saying that schools have fixed costs which do not diminish with every student that goes to a different school. Instructivist (I hate to say it, the fool can't help but say something right from time to time) is right in saying that there are also variable costs. So some creative work needs to be done to ensure that the education of public school students is not harmed by the departure of students into charter or private schools.

On the other hand, you could turn the argument around and argue that Catholic school students suffer a worse education than they would if they had access to the funds their parents are paying for that go to public schools. So why are these students worth less than their public school counterparts? The answer would be, of course, that they choose to go to private school. I am sure you now see the trap I am leading you into...

Implicit in your argument is that there is something about public schools that makes them inherently worth protecting, even if it means discouraging education alternatives. This may be a defensible argument; I'd like to see you defeind the argument explicitly.

Personally, I think it's time for those of us who believe in public education to co-opt the school choice agenda and make it our own. I've written about it in this post.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Jenny D. said...

ACtually, the argument comes from Caroline Minter Hoxby, a Harvard economist. Her studies have shown that when schools must compete for students, there is greater achievement. Also, her studies show that when schools compete for students, they also compete for teachers. And in those places, teacher salaries are higher. So if you are in a district with lots of charter, private schools, teacher salaries are on average higher than in comparable districts where there is no competition. Thus, vouchers might also improve teacher salaries.

7:02 AM  

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