If the Democrats are to be believed, even more spending is needed. And to perpetuate that belief, Democrats and their minions in the public school teachers' unions demonize alternatives that not only cost less but actually deliver results.
A political commentator for Young Voices, Casey Given, has resurrected three myths concerning school voucher programs. Given returns to the 1980s and the PBS series "Free to Choose"--where Milton Friedman debated the concept of school choice and vouchers--to update the myths Friedman dismantled in that series.
Myth 1: School vouchers increase segregation.
- "White flight" it's called. Opponents argue that the middle and upper classes would use vouchers to flee the public schools.
- Nearly every private voucher program--there are 18 such programs in 12 states--has income eligibility caps below 300% of the poverty line. Today, schools continue to boast student bodies representing different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Myth 2: Poor parents don't have access to enough information to choose the best schools.
- Opponents of vouchers argue that poor parents are not in a position to know what constitutes a solid education. Furthermore, they assert that poor parents won't take the time or don't have the resources to investigate schools.
- Besides depicting poor parents as victims and perhaps even ignorant--a condescending view of the poor if ever there was one--the facts of the voucher programs offer evidence to the contrary. For example, a survey of Georgia's voucher program discovered that both poor and non-disadvantaged parents took an average of five steps to investigate school quality. These steps included taking a tour of the school and asking others about its quality.
Myth 3: Poverty is the primary cause of educational failure.
- It is fact that poverty negatively correlates with student achievement. For example, malnourished children do not perform as well as well-nourished children and children living in poverty do not perform as well as children who don't live in poverty. But, it takes quite a leap of logic to assert, therefore, that public schools in the poorest locales must be mediocre, at best.
- Research findings are very clear: Voucher programs in the poorest locales lead to increased high school graduation and college enrollment rates than public schools in the same locales. Yes, there are many confounding variables. But, it seems that the quality of teaching is a powerful factor. That is, good teachers correlate positively with increased educational achievement by impoverished children.
School choice and vouchers pose a mortal threat to the public school establishment as it has existed since at least as early as the 1980s. That's why opponents continue to perpetrate myths about these promising alternatives.
The "common school ideal," as it has been enshrined in public education for more than two centuries, seems impervious to change and that's what enables opponents of school choice and vouchers to exploit these myths so effectively. After all, it's not about the students who aren't receiving a quality education. It's all about keeping their jobs in those mediocre schools.
Let the discussion begin...
To read Casey Given's article, click on the following link:
"The Myths of School Vouchers, Then and Now."