Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Upside Down World of Voucher Schools, Down the Republican Rabbit Hole

You can’t be a Republican today without vilifying the public schools system and backing taxpayer supported vouchers to unaccountable private schools. You’ll hear the word “competition” as the free market solution. The word competition is code for putting in place a for profit private educational system. For example:
NJ Republican gubernatorial candidate Christopher Christie pledged to create a school voucher program that allows students from failing districts to attend schools in districts that accept them … Christie decried the high costs of education in 31 mostly poor districts where the state is under a court order to spend additional money. "In those districts, we need to increase competition to make sure we get a better educational product."- Philadelphia Enquirer
Apparently, the state is short changing the school district. Fact: Early research indicates that voucher schools don’t result in better public schools by magically creating “competition.” Accountability to taxpayers has been the likely driving force.

But like his Republican primary opponent Steve Lonegan said, “Allowing students to take their vouchers and attend school outside their towns and cities "would siphon students off to other cities and leave behind empty schools and empty neighborhoods."

Bottom line: Republicans would much rather abandon our public school systems than try to fix them. It’s called “cut and running.”

But are private schools cheaper to run. Accountability and cost is strangely allusive when you’re dealing in the private sector. Elected official already collecting a paycheck usually jump through the hoops demanded of them by the public. But what happens when the public is unhappy with recent actions by a private school and want some accountability? It will cost every taxpayer money. For instance:
The non-profit four year boarding high school, Conserve School, announced that recent steep declines in the state, national and global economy were forcing the school and its supporting Conserve School Trust to make significant, cost-saving changes to its founding operational model in an effort to preserve Conserve School's long-term viability. Conserve announced a mass layoff of 32 of its 60 employees, (and wants to ) transition the environmentally-focused institution to a semester program for high school juniors.
Angry parents and community groups are suing.
“Also entering the Conserve School case in Vilas County Circuit Court as an intervenor party is Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.”
All costs coming out of the taxpayers pocket. Every taxpayer in the state.

And what about private voucher schools that close overnight, leaving students high and dry. Or private schools that are found to be inadequate, sometimes lacking a curriculum, and are shut down by the state. Kids at these schools just lost an entire year or more, that can never be made up, at a critical time in their development.

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