Fixing the schools – Education (Part 3)
So, if more money and expanded government control aren’t viable solutions, what is? The best solution for getting the most students into the highest quality schools is implementing a voucher system. Two years ago the national average spent per student per school year in the public schools was $9,138. The Cato Institute released an article called Private School Costs in 2003 which said,
“The most recent figures available from the U.S. Department of Education show that in 2000 the average tuition for private elementary schools nationwide was $3,267. Government figures also indicate that 41 percent of all private elementary and secondary schools – more than 27,000 nationwide charged less than $2,500 for tuition. Less than 21 percent of all private schools charged more than $5,000 per year in tuition. According to these figures, elite and very expensive private schools tend to be the exception in their communities, not the rule.”
It seems to me that spending $9000 on a public education is a very poor investment if you could spend $3000 on a private school instead. I’ve also seen that free market competition results in much higher quality results than a government monopoly. So why do people fight so hard against the voucher programs?
In 2007 Utah had a ballot measure about school vouchers. The loudest argument I heard against vouchers was that they would take money away from our already underfunded schools. This is an interesting argument. Technically it is true; the school receives funding per student, so less students would mean less funding. However, the Utah voucher program would have continued to pay for students who switched to private schools for five years after they started attending private school. This would mean more money per student. Which is better than having more money overall. Lets say there was a school with 5 students, and they got $5,000 apiece. The school would get a total of $25,000. Then voucher programs are implemented, and one student leaves. The school would still get $2,000 for him for the next five years. So the second year there are 4 students, the school would get a total of $22,000, or $5,500 per student instead of $5,000 per student. Would you rather have $5,500 per student, or more money total? The teachers unions, ACLU and other liberal organizations were fighting for the most money for the school systems, showing that they didn’t care about having additional funding for each student, they didn’t care about smaller class sizes, and they didn’t care about some students having the opportunity to have a higher quality education. Keep in mind that the loudest opponents of the voucher system are the Teacher’s Unions. Unions exist to protect the jobs of their members. That is why unions were created. If vouchers were implemented, the lowest quality teachers would be in danger of losing their jobs, so the teachers unions will fight vouchers, even if it is not in the best interest of the students. Albert Shanker, long-time president of the American Federation of Teachers said, ”I’ll start representing kids when kids start paying union dues.” So… when the teacher’s unions spend millions of dollars sending out literature purporting that voucher systems will hurt students, I have trouble trusting their motives.
Even if the schools weren’t receiving money for students who left the system, it would still mean smaller class sizes (something generally looked at as a positive thing for school systems) and it would mean the government was spending less money on education. Right now they spend about $9,000 per student. If a voucher program was implemented where each parent could opt for $3,000 toward a private school ($3,000 was the maximum amount in Utah; according to income the vouchers ranged from $500 to $3,000 annual tuition) then each parent who chose the $3,000 (or less) would save the government at least $6,000 a year on education. It seems like an obvious choice to me. The government is taking money from you in order to provide children with an education. Doesn’t it tick you off that they are spending thousands of dollars more a year than necessary for a lower quality education? They are forcing you to pay taxes, then choosing to spend $9,000 for a public education when they could be spending $3,000 for a private education. It certainly makes me mad.
Another argument against school vouchers is that it would be directing government funds to support religious institutions, since many private schools are religious in nature. I think this could be remedied in one of two simple ways; only make secular private schools an option when using school vouchers, or turn the ’voucher’ into a ’tax break’, since the parents choosing a religious private school obviously don’t mind if their money is used to support it. Another argument I often heard was that vouchers do not help the poorest students. I really do not understand this, since “…the average tuition for private elementary schools nationwide was $3,267. Government figures also indicate that 41 percent of all private elementary and secondary schools – more than 27,000 nationwide – charged less than $2,500 for tuition9.” If the poorest applicants get $3,000 per child per year, they shouldn’t have any trouble finding an affordable private school. Some related arguments were that the poorest students had parents who worked all the time, so they couldn’t get transportation to the schools. This may seem like a trite, compassionless answer, but if education is important to you then figure out a way. Carpool, find a friend who can drive, try to arrange your work schedule so you can get them to and from school, if they are in High School let them use public transportation. Really, lack of available transportation for some seems like a pitiful reason to deny millions of children the opportunity to receive the best education available.
When the vote was going on in Utah some of my friends voted against vouchers because they weren’t perfect. Some students still wouldn’t be able to afford the private schools, some students would choose not to, some students don’t have private schools available to them, etc. Voting against something because it wouldn’t fix all the problems seems like a counterproductive position to take. There are very few perfect solutions, very few perfect institutions in this world. To vote against something better than the current solution simply because it isn’t perfect hinders progress. Right now vouchers are the only alternative to the current educational system, and they would improve the educational opportunities for a large percent of America. If vouchers were implemented and education improved, then we would have all the less progress to make before all the remaining problems were fixed. Problems like some students not having private schools available would likely be solved automatically; if there are no competing private schools in a low-income area it would suddenly be very profitable to build the only private school available to those students and ensure that it provides a better quality education. Right now private schools are only available to higher income families. Making them available through vouchers to those who would never otherwise have had the opportunity would go a long way toward breaking the poverty cycle. Waiting around for another solution does immeasurable damage to those who could be benefiting from vouchers now.
One of the most interesting arguments I heard was from two public school teachers. They said that implementing vouchers would destroy the public school system; it would remove all of the good influences, all of the hard working students, and leave nothing but the ”dregs of society” (not my words). Without the influence of the more motivated students, the ones left in the public school system would accomplish nothing and their entire education would be wasted. This makes some interesting points. One thing it says is that smaller class size, which some teachers make out to be the Holy Grail of fixing all our educational problems (after more funding, of course), isn’t actually that great. Certainly if only the lazy, unmotivated students were left in the public school systems then we would have much smaller classes. But I guess smaller classes are only a good thing if there are good students there too. This argument also implicitly admits that keeping good students in the public school system is a detriment to them. After all, you can’t argue that the unmotivated students are influenced by the hard working students without recognizing that the hard working are also influenced by the unmotivated. So their argument for vouchers boils down to this; limit the opportunities for the students who could excel for the sake of the lazy and unmotivated.
Now that I’ve discussed the arguments against vouchers, I would like to give a couple of reasons why I support them. I’ve already mentioned the cost. I’m not a fan of unnecessarily dumping billions of tax dollars into failed government programs. If there is another way to provide every child in America with an education at potentially 1/3 the cost, I’m in support of it. The fact that it’s a better quality education is just icing on the cake. (Or ice cream on the pie, because I’m not a huge fan of cake, or icing, but dutch apple pie ala mode is way delicious.)
I also support vouchers because it gets children out of the public school systems. Now, I may sound a bit like a conspiratorialist, but I see a lot of liberal propaganda in the public schools that I don’t think every child in America should be exposed to. Things like, hey, teaching evolution as though it were an indisputable fact instead of a 200 year old theory proposed by a guy who knew nothing about cellular replication, DNA, enzymes, mutations or anything else that evolution would involve. My husband remembers being terrified in elementary school because he thought the world was going to run out of drinkable water in his lifetime. I remember asking my parents why we cut our grass, because I was taught that not cutting the grass would let it grow thicker and healthier. Environmentalism is an easy topic to indoctrinate children with. It’s easy to scare a fourth grader with descriptions of a world without trees, oceans and blue skies. I don’t really want to get into things like global warming, deforestation, pollution, etc. Maybe they are major problems. Maybe they aren’t. Whether or not they are problems is irrelevant. They are not important topics for elementary school students to be taught. I think it is much, much more important that they learn how to read, write and do math. Just take a quick look at online discussion boards and you will see that there are way too many people in America who are convinced that global warming is going to destroy us all, but they can’t formulate a grammatically correct sentence with all the words spelled right. This screams that there is something wrong with the public schools.
There are also matters of sex and drug education. I was sent to the hall once because I told my health teacher he was wasting my time; he was teaching my class of 15 year old students how to treat a hangover. I don’t think that is the schools’ responsibility. Nor do I think the schools should be teaching us how to have safe anal sex, or telling children that masturbation and porn, addictive behaviors, are normal. I know I’m opening a huge can of worms bringing these things up, but why don’t you just step back for a moment and think about what the purpose of school is. Schools exist to teach. Students should be going to school to learn English, Science, Math, History. The schools exist to prepare students to get jobs after graduating, or to go on to college. It is not the schools’ job to educate children on sex, diversity, possible environmental problems and drugs. It just isn’t. And I think it is part of the liberal agenda to normalize a world without morals. Morals are just a religious thing, religion has no place in the government, government runs the schools, so we’re going to teach children all about sex and drugs so they think it’s normal. (There is a very good discussion of that theory here; I think the assessment might be a little harsh, but at the same time, I can’t think of a better explanation for why Liberals think the way they do.) Just a few examples are: Obama appointing the director of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools a man who taught High School children about fisting. Or a Helena school’s sex ed goals: “By fifth grade, they are taught there are several types of intercourse, and by the sixth grade, the draft document states that students should, “Understand that sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral, or anal penetration; using the penis, fingers, tongue or objects.” That’s some dirty stuff. For ten-year-olds. Do you want your beautiful six year old daughter taught that she could be a little boy, and that’s okay? Would it surprise you to find out that this gender diversity program was funded by the California Teacher’s Union? The result; 2nd graders having oral sex in school. Only a liberal would be surprised that the younger you start teaching kids about sex, the younger they start having sex.
I would much rather have my children in a private school, where they aren’t taught that everyone is having sex and everyone tries drinking and drugs at some point. (If you’re thinking to yourself, ’well, everyone does have sex and everyone does try drinking and drugs,’ you are wrong. I was a virgin when I got married. I have never had any illegal drug, I’ve never tried cigarettes, I’ve never had alcohol. The mentality that everyone does it is a lie, and it is meant to normalize inappropriate behavior. Because if everyone believes that everyone is doing it, then over time it becomes more and more true.) The best reason for supporting a voucher program goes back to the qualities of a free market. When your tax dollars are supporting the public school system they have no accountability to you. The administration (and boy, are there a lot of them) and the teachers get their paychecks no matter what quality of education your child is getting.
And if you don’t like their policies, you have no recourse. If you can use your tax dollars to send your child to a private school instead, then you can choose the education you want them to have. Maybe you do think that sex, drug and environmental education is important to prepare your child for life in this world. If that is the case, then send them to a school that covers all that. That’s fine by me! If you would rather your child focus on math and science, send them to a school that focuses on technical subjects. If you would like to give your child a religious setting for their education, choose a religious private school. If you find out your child’s teacher can’t pass a 10th grade level literacy test (Coulson, Andrew J. Market Education (140-141). Copyright © 1998, Andrew J. Coulson.), get them put in a different class or a different school. The great thing about a free market is that it tends to be self-regulating. Private schools know that parents want their children to have quality teachers, so they hire quality teachers. Public schools know that parents don’t have a choice, so they hire whoever they can and that person immediately joins a teacher’s union and can’t be fired. Kind of a sick cycle, isn’t it? I would rather send my children to a school that is accountable to its customers, not accountable to the government.
Just a few final thoughts. Nothing I say should be interpreted to mean that all public schools are horrible, or even inadequate. I was quite lucky to go to a wonderful school where I feel I was able to learn and prepare for college. If I had been given the choice to attend a private school, I think I would have stayed in my public school, despite any problems it may have had. What I am supporting is having that choice, so that students who are not satisfied with their public school can choose something different. I do not think the government should take sole responsibility for educating America’s youth, and I believe the current level of government control has led to much poorer quality school systems, full of wasteful spending, unnecessary bureaucracy, and a frightening amount of time being spent on teaching liberal agendas.
I think the fear of losing control over what is being taught in the school systems is the reason liberal groups fight so hard against vouchers. Although I think vouchers would improve the quality of education, I think the single most important thing that could be done is for parents to be involved. They should expect their children to go to college. They should help their children study. They should teach their children respect. If every child in America had parents who taught them to respect adults and value their education, there would be a transformation in the schools overnight. However, good parenting is not something that can be legislated. If vouchers are not available then the next best option is to give teachers the power to discipline disruptive students and to hire teachers who know their sub jects, not just how to teach. Vouchers are the best solution for improving the schools in this nation, but even the best schools are worthless if the parents haven’t taught their children the importance of hard work.
Posted on June 15, 2011, in Education and tagged department of education, DOE, education, educational costs, NCLB, no child left behind, private schools, public schools, teachers, teachers unions, unions, vouchers, why I'm Conservative. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.