One of the biggest threats to public education are school choice programs. These are the federal-state partnerships for “school choice” — public money to give parents vouchers to use in public schools. In states like Georgia, they are the most common kind: a system of vouchers that have been used successfully in Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Arizona, and Tennessee.
But voucher programs are only one part of the problem. This week on my radio program, Public Radio International’s Morning Edition, I spoke with Bill Van Auken, a former New Jersey school board member who is now the president of a national movement called Charter SchoolsUSA. In his new book, “A Common Sense Approach to Education Reform,” he explains that, “The real enemy in American education is not vouchers, but a government-sponsored monopoly over education. This has happened right under our noses, and it needs to end.”
How do they plan to do this?
Right now, the school voucher program is an expansion of the federal public school choice program in which the federal government gives a voucher to students and their families that allow them to take their children to private schools that are run by the state or by religious organizations like the Catholic Church.
A common sense approach would be to go back to the federal voucher program and expand it to other states who have done a very good job of privatizing education. For instance, a lot of states have done a good job of reducing school taxes by giving the children vouchers. There is a lot of good work going on there now, in Kansas, Louisiana, and Illinois.
So you call the federal government’s vouchers an expansion. Why?
Voucher programs encourage families to take advantage of vouchers and then to pay taxes to support the private-school education that the voucher students attend. And while the voucher students benefit from the high state taxes that are paid for the educational benefits that the private schools provide, the parents don’t benefit from a much higher educational cost. So voucher students, when they go to public schools, are paying higher education costs than they otherwise would.
So you want a lot of the voucher programs shut down?
A lot, yes. And the reason for that is because, ultimately, if a kid from a poor family is going to a private school, the parent is paying the majority of the school costs, and then the public schools receive most of the funds that are saved because the private school takes care of the students, while the public schools don
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