Why voucher schools?
Public schools are not the best choice for every student. We will vote on this question in November 1996.
If voters adopt the voucher method of financing education, we will save billions of dollars now wasted in state schools. Private schools that apply to become scholarship voucher-redeeming schools under school choice Initiative 173 will better fit the education needs of some families.
Families who pay about half of every state tax dollar for schools but cannot find a good school illustrate the issue of education fairness facing America. Is it fair to take millions of tax dollars from working class, moderate income parents, who starve the family budget, to pay private school tuition?
There is a cultural and political battle line between choice advocates and the education establishment. Public education is a $400 billion a year business that fears parental control and rejects the prospect of competition. The teacher union spent $16 million fighting vouchers in California.
Friends of choice point out that the state certifies and inspects voucher schools if they receive state funds. Voucher schools have open enrollment and may not discriminate illegally, despite teacher union claims to the contrary. Being funded and regulated by the state, they are in fact a new category of school, an independent public school.
Critics claim that public money should not go to private schools. Do they want to stop the GI Bill, Pell Grants, early childhood education, and school lunches, programs that already go to private schools? Voucher schools create competition and incentive for excellence.
Critics of voucher schools say competition will destroy public schools. Are they so unsure of the public school's ability to change? If competition destroys the public schools then it will be because they failed to adapt to the needs and challenges of the twenty-first century.
More likely, the public schools, under new, responsible leadership, will respond heroically to the challenge from the private sector. They will begin to compete successfully with other education service providers. What will some of these alternative service providers be like?
I can envision, for instance, Microsoft and Boeing opening high-tech, for-profit voucher schools at their plants. Parents driving to work would also be driving their children to school. They would adjust the length of the school day and school year to correspond with the modern work routine, instead of adopting the nineteenth century schedule our horse-and-buggy public schools keep.
The supporters of school choice have the best interests of all students in mind. Unlike the critics of choice who stand in the school house door and shout "No, Never," the agents of school reform stand with open arms saying "Yes, Now."
Dr. Ron Taber, candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction