Wednesday, January 14, 2009

When Private Schools Become Government Funded "Public" Schools.

The Athens Banner-Herald featured this voucher perspective from Priscilla Carroll, titled: Vouchers will hurt private schools. She points to a rarely discussed result when government money is being spent on profit educational businesses:

The idea of school vouchers has surfaced again … no one has revealed the great deception vouchers really are.The concept of "choice" in education is one argument in favor of vouchers. However, vouchers will eliminate all choice if private, parochial, Christian and home schools are tempted to take the money. The truth is, once private, independent schools accept vouchers, they no longer can remain "private." Government regulations and oversight will force them to become one and the same with the public schools.

Then, one size of government control truly will fit all. This is the great deception.
Former federal secretaries of education have warned about vouchers. Lamar Alexander, who served under George H.W. Bush, said any school who accepted a student who came with public dollars would become a public school. Richard Riley, who served in the Clinton administration, said vouchers threatened the very nature of private schools. The Supreme Court has upheld the principle that when the government offers funds, it may include as a condition that those who receive the money refrain from disseminating certain kinds of information or expressing certain points of view.

Many countries in Europe, as well as Australia, South Africa and Canada, have seen private education go by the wayside as they accepted public funds for education.

Here are a few reader responses:
rossmadison: This column is incorrect. The voucher is given to the parent. It then belongs to the parent, who tenders it to the school. For government to regulate private schools receiving vouchers would infringe on parents' choice.

Wrong, rossmadison. As the government, us, we want to make sure our taxpayer money is being spent well, hardly an infringement on a parents choice (is that a Constitutional protection? Didn’t think so). The next response nails it:
Artemis4951: Like private institutions receiving public funds, private schools will be subject to some form of government oversight. Eventually, particularly if the legislature is under pressure to show results, or has concerns, they're going to require more reporting from those private schools to prove that they are legitimate places for investment of public funds.
And here was my response, albeit a bit more partisan:

In European countries, the intent of private schools receiving taxpayer dollars wasn't to break up teachers unions, but to make sure the quality of education improved and matched or exceeded public schools. In those countries, public and private schools use the same educational materials and receive the same tests. If private schools can do a better job and still include religion of whatever message they advocate, everybody wins. But as Carroll points out, private becomes public.

Voucher advocates cannot deny that taxpayer dollars in the U.S. would go to untested schools with no accountability measures or testing. They simply state that parents know best and people should have a choice. Feel good but vacuous statements driven by ideology. Calling vouchers "scholarships" or taking corporate donations sidesteps public accountability of taxpayer spending, and sends all our money into profit driven schools while stealing dollars from state coffers.

With accounting like this, it's no wonder the country is in crisis. Blame the free marketers. They hate government but love taking its money. Go figure.

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