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Monday, April 21, 2014

Voucher parents aren’t the villains of the debate, they are the pawns.

Former Senator Al Lawson writes I have little tolerance for those who try to cast these parents as villains in public education. Education is a not a zero-sum game, and this scholarship is simply about giving poor families more options.

I don’t know if he is naive or if he thinks the public is because vouchers is a lot more than giving poor families more options and the pro voucher crowd uses those same poor families he claims to care about as pawns in the education debate.

First let me say no matter how often Lawson and the other supporters of vouchers repeat it, it doesn’t make it true. Yes some of the students who took vouchers and left public schools were struggling but some were doing very well too. Vouchers have more to do with parents wanting a religious education, their distrust of gov’ment schools and irrational hatred of teachers unions that getting better education outcomes. I know this because the states own experts says the children that get vouchers don’t experience better outcomes and I would add that private schools can pick who they take and keep and put requirements on parents, which are significant advantages when determining performance. These also help mitigate the facts that private schools that take vouchers don’t have to have certified teachers or teachers with degrees, recognized curriculums and many teach creationism as science.

Then for every independent group Lawson can come up with to say vouchers save money I can find a handful of superintendents and parent organizations that bemoan the loss of resources and report being able to do less and less because of it. Does Lawson really think the annual siphoning of hundreds of millions of dollars has not just no effect but a positive one?     

Furthermore there are lots of reasons why people oppose the expansion of vouchers. First for religious reasons, vouchers don’t just blur the line between church and state, it obliterates it. There is the accountability, that Lawson and many voucher supporters’ fight against and the fact vouchers annually siphon hundreds of millions out of public schools and the tax base which pays for many services.

If we are being honest other than a religious education there is very little that students who take vouchers can get that they couldn’t get in public schools and the public should not subsidize a family’s choices to leave. There is no manifest need that Lawson or the other voucher proponents can point too.

Are there great schools that take vouchers? Undoubtedly is what the states voucher expert David Figilo reports but he also says there are very poor ones too and unfortunately Lawson instead of weeding out the bad apples wants to expand the program. Also where are his cries insisting that Florida’s public school children receive adequate resources? They weren’t to be found in his op ed and that should tell you all you need to know about where his loyalties lie. Instead all he is interested in doing is beating the voucher drum, willing to undercut the many who attend public schools to help the few who choose not to.

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