Foreword:Next week, Utah voters will cast their ballot on a referendum for a School Voucher Program. Basically, the law (in this incarnation) provides a graduated tax credit for low and middle income families who choose to send their children to private schools. The scale is based on combined parental income and number of children in the household.
I am against school vouchers, because it is defacto support for religious and special interest education.
Think “Warren Jeffs’ School for Future Wife Beaters and Child Molesters.” Think “Al-Queda in America Future Terrorists School.” …all supported with your tax dollars.What about Spanish speaking schools? The “No Se Habla Ingles Aqui” School. Immigrant youth will now NEVER learn English, and your tax dollars will fund it! How do you feel about it now?
Vouchers would divide and segregate our schools and communities along religious and cultural boundaries once more, and each child will receive a radically variable, dogmatic, pre-processed world view. Vouchers would turn back the clock on the pluralism and diversity that we have worked so hard to build in our schools ever since the Civil Right’s Movement and school integration.
I know, I know. This coming from a guy who went to one of the most conservative, religious, dogmatic private universities in the country?? Let me explain the difference. Primary and Secondary school is all about parent choice, while Higher Education is all about student choice. While a student is in primary and secondary school, they are young, impressionable, and not able to think much for themselves. They are prone to being indoctrinated. (Think “Blood Diamond”) By the time a student hits college, they are becoming their own independent and critical thinker. They can make informed choices about their education, and what type of institution will fit them best. Primary and Secondary schools benefit from being a “Sesame Street” view of the world, where we have all races, religions and types of people. Where all learn to play on a playground together and discover that they are more the same than they are different.
Our public school system needs a shake up, I’ll admit. We need to make teaching a competitive profession, where teachers are paid for performance. For you Social Darwinists out there, we also need to realize that not every child will be a “straight A” math and science student, and still find ways to reach out to every student and help them be (and feel) successful. (remember the days when we had metal shop and music classes?)
To further complicate the issue, Dubbya, as the leader of the Republican party, made the biggest gaffe in party history with No Child Left Behind, the largest federalization of a state program since FDR.
We already have school choice. They are called private, magnet, public and charter schools. You can take your pick! I do think school choice should be extended to being able to choose any school in your local school district (forfeiting certain privileges such as busing).
We all love capitalism, and I think schools could benefit from some market-based pressures to be competitive and produce. However, remember that above all, market economies are never FAIR. They put efficiency above all else, and that is a recipe for disaster for many aspects of education. (read: cutting of sports and arts programs)
All this referendum would do for Utah is give middle class and poor people a small stipend to send their children to private schools run by religious fanatics. And for a state who’s already defined nationally as a religious nut-house, that can’t be a good thing.