Monday, March 24, 2008

Voucher Reality Hits the Wall

I guess it had to happen. The voucher reality just hit the financial wall with an honest assessment of a business model primed for failure. In a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online article, “Church offers free tuition to all: Falls' Zion Lutheran hopes change raises enrollment”

The private school sector inadvertently made the case against the pro-voucher contingent. It shines a light on the way families in the future will have to deal with rising tuition's and economic belt tightening.

“In an effort to stem a steady decline in enrollment and to fulfill what they see as a primary mission of their church, church members overwhelmingly voted this month to let families send their children to Zion Lutheran School for free whether they are members of the church or not. The K4-through-eighth-grade school has 47 students, down from about 130 in the early 1990s."

Here we have a private school, exposed to consumer choice, trying to survive the free market model that will decide who stays in business or is forced to drop out. A school who’s enrollment of 130 dropped by 83 students; a 63 percent decline.

Zion Pastor Lamkin then makes an observation that should send shutters through the anti-public school community.

Pastor Lamkin said “cost is a primary factor for people not attending private school. With economic times the way they are, tuition can be one of the things people look at first' to cut costs.”

In a world of private schools and the inevitable free market consolidations, “tuition can be one of the things people look at first to cut costs” doesn't sound like the answer to a well educated public. Perhaps these hard hit families will have the option of going to a cheaper, less desirable school for their children to muddle through. Who knows, by then, laws might be passed to allow children to skip a few years while their parents save up for tuition.

Incredibly, in exchange for enrollment, parents would be on the hook for “worshipping at Zion or another church, helping out at sporting events and other extracurricular activities, being involved with the parent-teacher organization and helping out with other fund-raisers.”

Parents should be involved with their children's education, but this solution comes at the expense of family time together. The sad fact is, volunteering still won’t pay the brick and mortar costs of maintaining the school.

“The additional financial commitment from the church next year, then, is likely to be about $100,000, (Lamkin) said. ‘So we're encouraging our members toward sacrificial giving and holding some extra fund-raisers."

Your child's education will be dependent on someones “sacrificial giving” and “fund-raisers.”

Get out the tin cup, folks.

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