.. rimelow, 52) Where does all the money go? In the LAUSD only 36 % of school funding is spent on teacher salaries, textbooks, and supplies. Thirty-one people are paid over $100,000 a year, only one of which is a teacher. Statewide in California, only 44 percent of the people employed by the school system are teachers. In the independent schools in California, 86 percent of school employees are teachers. (Harmer, 41-43) The situation is the same nationwide.
Researcher Michael Fisher found that only 25.7% of funds reach the classroom in Milwaukee schools. (McGroarty, 21) It is plain to see that throwing more money at schools and calling it reform won’t help the situation. Leaders of the National Education Association and its statewide affiliates have done much of the campaigning against proposed school choice plans. They represent the only people who are set to lose because of school choice: the education bureaucrats. Their jobs will no longer be guaranteed by a government monopoly. Many people fear that schools supported by the new choice movements would be fly-by-night institutions that are out to make a profit, teach racial and religious discrimination, and condone violent behavior. However, legislative school choice efforts have placed regulations on independent schools.
The Parental Choice in Education initiative in California contained the following items: (1) No school, which discriminates on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, or national origin, may redeem scholarships. (2) To the extent permitted by this Constitution and the Constitution of the United States. The State shall prevent from redeeming scholarships any school which advocates unlawful behavior; teaches hatred of any person or group on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, or gender; or deliberately provides false or misleading information respecting the school. (3) No school with fewer than 25 students may redeem scholarships, unless the Legislature provides otherwise. These measures would prevent fraud and discrimination.
School choice does not condone discrimination. Government already regulates private schools to some degree, and this would definitely not decrease with the use of vouchers. Too many people are under the opinion that private schools are all elite academies or preppy boarding schools, both of which charge admission the price of a college education. However, 95 percent of Catholic schools, and 88 percent of Protestant schools charge tuition under $2,500 a year. Robert Genetski said, “Average cost data for public and private education indicate that in 1990 the operating cost per student for kindergarten through grade 12 in public schools was $4,841, compared with private school costs of $1,902.” (Harmer, 76) The truth is that even the poorest of parents would be able to afford a private education with a school choice plan.
In legislative efforts for choice in California, parents would receive a voucher for half the cost of public schools, which would completely cover the costs of many adequate private schools. It is true that the government would lose money by giving scholarships to students already attending private schools. However, the government gains money by losing new students to private schools, since only half of a students tax money follows the student. The students that leave after school choice is enacted would provide a pool of money that would more than cover current private school attendees. Furthermore, David Harmer, author of the Parental Choice in Education initiative and School Choice: Why You Need It, How You Get It, said that if he had to rewrite the initiative, he would include a measure that would phase in school choice.
Each year one new grade would be allowed to participate, starting at Kindergarten, and ending with grade 12. No students currently in private schools would benefit from school choice. (Harmer, 178) Opponents of school choice fear that children with special needs would be left out in the cold, since private schools would deny them admission. However, special education is already dealt with by a voucher type system. Public schools cannot meet the needs of many children, so the government sends these children with special needs to private contractors, such as the local School for Contemporary Education. Children who have special needs are guaranteed an equivalent education by many state laws, and this would not change under a school choice plan.
Edd Doerr wrote that, “Despite repeated and misleading claims to the contrary, vouchers are merely the latest in a long line of attempts by sectarian special interests to channel public money to church-related education institutions.” (Doerr, et al, 37) He conjures up images of “government funded religious schools” that, horror of horrors, teach religion. However, the GI Bill is constitutional! If a student decides to spend money from the government on a religious education, it does not mean that the wall between church and state has come tumbling down. Today students use money from the GI Bill and Pell Grants at religious colleges without any problem. Voucher plans are the exact same thing, except with younger kids. George Bush even called his school choice plan the “GI Bill for Kids.” To say that vouchers fund religious schools is to say that food stamps are government funding of supermarkets. As to cultural balkanization, school choice would not effect this at all.
Religious or racial discrimination is not allowed. The claim that society is held together by a “common school experience” is a faulty argument. Schools exist to teach, not for the sake of existing. Americans respect diversity and freedom of opinion, but somehow a diversity of ideas in education seems anathema. Private schools send a higher percentage of students to college than do public schools. Their students perform better on standardized tests.
They operate more cost efficiently. They are directly responsible to the parents of their students, while public schools pay more attention to school boards and administrators. Government schools have had a monopoly on children for far too long. Thanks to their efforts, one third of American seventeen-year-olds cannot locate France on a map of the world. Only one in ten can write a reasonable paragraph or do pre-college mathematics.
Every citizen in America deserves a decent education. School choice can make it happen. Bibliography Brimelow, Peter. “Bottomless Pit.” Forbes 3 November 1997: 52-3. Doerr, Edd, Albert J.
Menendez, and John M. Swomley. The Case Against School Vouchers. New York: Prometheus Books, 1996. Harmer, David.
School Choice: Why You Need It, How You Get It. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 1994. Friedman, Milton, and Rose Friedman. Free to Choose. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980.
McGroarty, Daniel. Break These Chains: The Battle for School Choice. Rocklin: Prima Publishing, 1996.