Friday, September 15, 2006

Thoughts and slides on vouchers

A friend of mine came up with this question to ask of Democratic politicians:

I would presume that you are a champion of women's reproductive rights, yet your "pro-choice" stance would appear to end there.  Apparently you trust a low-income mother enough to decide whether or not to end a pregnancy, but you don't seem to trust her enough to choose a school for the child six years later.  Why is that?

I think this raises an interesting issue, but here's a pretty simple (and sensible) answer:
My opposition to vouchers has nothing to do with not trusting low-income mothers to choose good schools for their children.  Rather, I'm not convinced that such programs help the students who take advantage of them, I worry that the students left behind will be worse off, and I think these programs are a divisive distraction.  I think we should be spending 100% of our time and energy focusing on improving public schools rather than spending taxpayer money to send a small number of children to private schools.
Now before those of you who support vouchers start flaming me, I'M ON YOUR SIDE!  I just think it's useful to clearly articulate the most reasonable opposing point of view.  To rebut the statement above, I put together the slides posted at, which show that voucher programs have a long and successful history and not only help the students who use them (pages 5-6), but the so-called "left behind" ones as well (pages 9-11).  
A random personal story: My best friend in high school received a voucher to attend an out-of-state, private school (we attended Northfield Mt. Hermon) from the state of Vermont because he lived in a small town without a public high school.  For more on this program and a similar one in Maine, both of which are over 100 years old (and generate absolutely no controversy), see page 3 of the slides.

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