Friday, April 29, 2011

Keep 'em Separated

Since the 1950's, there has been a tremendous political movement to increase the use of private school vouchers - that is, sending students to private school on the public dime. The current reasoning is another of those common-sense-isms that seems rational on its face.

But all you have to do is dig a little deeper.

First of all, there is an inherent conflict of interest. The same people (state legislators) who are able to politically enact vouchers programs to "allow even poor people to escape the worst public schools" (their words) are the same people who politically affect policy for the state's worst public schools.

Meaning a politician who wants a voucher program can create the need for a voucher program by passively neglecting or actively kneecapping public education through his or her legislative perogatives.

This behavior is demonstrated very well, as Jay Bookman indicates, when political supporters of voucher programs refuse to require voucher recipients take standardized testing the state mandates for public school students.

I wonder what the explanation is for that?

Let me get this straight: a legislator will force education budgets to spend millions on standardized high-stakes testing infrastructure, to quantitatively evaluate the value of a public education and to "install accountability." This makes public schools cut extracurricular programs in favor of teaching the test, degrading the overall value of a public education. Then, in response to that degredation, that same legislator will say that students need to escape the mess that's been made, and offer to send them to private schools with public money. Finally, once the kid is in private school, the legislator does not want that student tested against one of the only metrics available to quantitatively evaluate the value difference between private and public education.

Where's your accountability now?

That's why I vote against every single politician who proposes a voucher program - it is, literally, a public and policy-based admission that the candidate is incapable or unwilling to do the job they were elected to do. Not only that, but such politicians are usually openly hostile to doing that job.

Now, I wouldn't vote for them if they just came out and admitted that they despised the idea of public schools and would rather that not be the government's responsibility. I think that position is terrible and has been demonstrably proven false. But I would at least respect the honesty. That's an improvement to the way they're going about things now.


1 comment:

Dante said...

"But all you have to do is dig a little deeper."

Exactly. Do those politicians who support the voucher system also support the standardized testing regiment currently required by the Standardized Testing Company Bonanza Act*? It's possible they don't support standardized testing requirements in general but cannot remove them for public schools. There are other possible lines of reasoning those politicians could've had. We don't know what they were thinking because Bookman didn't bother to dig in that area.

"Then, in response to that degredation, that same legislator will say that students need to escape the mess that's been made, and offer to send them to private schools with public money."

As I've pointed out above, it's not the same legislator. All that same legislator did was make sure public school systems follow the necessary steps to receive public funding from the federal government. If they support both the STCBA* and vouchers on their own merit, I'm interested in hearing why because that seems ideologically inconsistent but from the information given we can't make that determination.

I just spent the past two or three months evaluating school districts for my kids to go to. Personally, the standardized testing results meant very little to me. It was on another screen from the data I was mostly looking at and I found that the percentage of economically disadvantaged students was a pretty darn accurate indicator of test score results. I also looked at figures on how long the teachers had been teaching there, the percentage of the special ed population, and percentage of gifted population.

If I could've picked my own statistics in addition to those above, this is what I'd be looking for:
-Percentage of former students who went to college.
-Percentage of former students who graduated from college.
-Career pie chart for former students.
-Family mean and median incomes.
-Criminal incidents for student population.

A voucher system has just as much merit as any other government function contracted out to a private entity. It all depends on implementation.

* Colloquially referred to as No Child Left Behind.