There has much in the news lately about the growing popularity of school vouchers.
These vouchers in effect put the control of which schools kids will attend in the hands of parents and students and beyond the control of teachers unions and government bureaucrats.
In simple language, vouchers enable the people who are most interested in the education of their children -- their parents -- to decide with their children which schools their children will attend.
Who can be against that? Well, the self serving leadership of the teachers unions in combination with self serving politicians often join forces to prevent the use of vouchers and therefore keep the parents and students from choosing where and how the kids will be educated.
Unfortunately and mistakenly, far too many people believe that the political opposition to school vouchers and parental choice lies strictly within the Democratic Party. That's because the Democrats have long been a strong ally and supporter of labor unions, and the unions have in turn supported the Democrats at election time.
So when it comes to vouchers, too many of We the People wrongly believe that the Republicans are always on the side of vouchers, parental control and freedom of choice. If only that were so, but it's not always the case.
Republicans Against Vouchers is subtitled 'GOP legislators join unions to oppose reform in Wisconsin' and tells it like it is in Wisconsin today:
"School vouchers are usually opposed by teachers unions and their Democratic
allies, but a dirty little secret is that some suburban Republicans oppose them
too. The latter is the case in Wisconsin, where GOP Governor Scott Walker's plan
to get more kids out of failing schools is facing opposition from short-sighted
members of his own party.
The Badger State's 22-year-old voucher program currently covers Milwaukee and
Racine. But in his budget for fiscal 2014-15, Mr. Walker wants to expand it to
nine of the state's worst school districts and increase funding by 9%. Under the
proposed formula, students in districts that have at least two schools that get
a D or F on their 2011-2012 performance report cards could use a voucher at a
The plan would cover 500 new students in the first year, 1,000 in the second,
and thereafter as many as qualified under the formula, which extends the voucher
to students in failing schools whose families make 300% of the poverty level.
The new areas include Beloit, Green Bay, Kenosha, Waukesha and Fond du Lac, and
more than 40,000 children who currently attend lousy public schools would be
That should please Neenah Republican and Wisconsin Senate President Mike
Ellis, who last year called Green Bay's Preble High School a "sewer." But Mr.
Ellis has instead promised to block Mr. Walker's proposal, saying that the
Governor had not respected the input of eight or 10 Republicans who didn't want
more vouchers in the budget. "This is phase one of a wide-open school voucher
program for the state," Mr. Ellis moans.
But what would be wrong with that? According to the School Choice
Demonstration Project, 94% of students who have received vouchers in Milwaukee
graduate from high school, compared to 75% from the Milwaukee public schools.
They're also more likely to go to college.
While Wisconsin schools score better than most, in 2010 the National
Assessment of Educational Progress found that Wisconsin's black fourth grade
students had the worst reading scores in the country. By eighth grade, black
students did worse on English tests than students for whom English was a second
Unions are rolling out the usual canard that vouchers steal funds from public
schools, though research shows that competition from charter schools and
vouchers often causes traditional public schools to improve. The state money
would follow the student, but the $6,442 voucher is far less than the $13,269 it
currently costs to educate a child in traditional public schools. Voucher
funding has been relatively unchanged for a decade, so Mr. Walker's proposal
would be a moderate expansion.
One reason school reform has been so politically difficult is that too many
suburban parents think the problem is confined to inner-city schools when their
own schools fail to educate thousands. Republicans too often play to this
conceit, especially when it means they can win union support. Mr. Walker has put
the GOP on the right side of the reform debate, and his party should get behind
Vouchers, free choice, cost savings and improved educational outcomes should be a top priority for all Americans. That the teachers unions have found an ally in Republican Wisconsin Senate President Ellis demonstrates once again why politics sucks and why the problem is not confined to any specific political party. It's everywhere.
It's ridiculous to oppose vouchers and choice simply because attending a suburban school may result in a better educational outcome than attending an inner city school will. That's simply extremely shortsighted, ignorant and wrongheaded reasoning!
The competition for jobs and economic growth is worldwide and is not limited to the state of Wisconsin's boundaries. Is the head of the Republican party too dumb to see that? Or is is that he's just a politician and not concerned about the major issues facing Americans?
Let's start a real race to the top. If suburban schools catch up with their international counterparts, then the inner city schools will have an even bigger hurdle to climb to reach equality. But isn't that the only genuine way to achieve excellence in education?
Our kids can compete successfully with anybody in the world, but first we have to give them the chance to do so. All of them.
Of course, parents are and always will be more concerned about the well being and opportunities being given to their children than teachers unions and government bureaucrats will be. Accordingly, let's empower them so they can make the right choices, which they will, if only given the facts and an opportunity to do so.
But in the meantime, standing in the way of presenting the parents and their children with the necessary facts and opportunities are far too many obstructionist American politicians and their union allies. And that's a very big hurdle for the rest of us to overcome.
But parents will make the required effort to jump that hurdle when it comes to doing what's right for our children and our country, too. And taxpayers and society will thereby benefit as well.
Because in the end, the self serving politicians and the self serving union leaders are no match for We the People.
That's my take.