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September 19, 2011
School Vouchers, as Seen by the Opposition
Paul Cooper has just written an interesting article for Pajamas Media about Indiana's expansion of the use of school vouchers.
As Mr. Cooper points out, school vouchers should appeal to both liberals and conservatives...but they don't. As he puts it:
Those in opposition are, of course, the usual suspects: the public-school teachers' unions and the ACLU.
Understandably, the teachers don't want to see any reduction in their share of tax revenues, which are currently allocated to Indiana's public schools (and obviously to the teachers that work for Indiana's public schools). It's hard to argue with teachers, or the employees of any organization, who argue against supporting a competitor. Can anyone see any UAW member recommending a Nissan, Honda, or Volkswagen? The Indiana teachers are arguing for their jobs and paychecks, so even if their arguments are weak, they are fighting for a cause everyone can relate to and understand.
On the other hand, the ACLU has used the Indiana initiative to redefine the terms of the debate; now they're wrapping their argument in terms of the separation of church and state. Mr. Cooper has selected a paragraph from a blog posting on aclu.org to illustrate the ACLU's viewpoint on the issue.
The ACLU try to show that they are merely reflecting the thoughts of some of the country's founding fathers. The ACLU's blog quotes Thomas Jefferson -- i.e., "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical." Sadly (or predictably, depending on your view of the ACLU), they gloss over the fact that (a) Jefferson was essentially an agnostic in a nation full of Christians, so his own objectivity might be called into question, and (b) the question that he was addressing was related to school funding for all children which mandated the teaching of Christian ideas. This is rather a different situation from offering school vouchers that might be used by parents who prefer a choice in the school their children attend. In the latter case, no violation of the 1st Amendment is glaringly apparent.
The 1st Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion[.]" No matter how that phrase is mangled, no rational person can interpret it to be the same as "Congress shall make no law that even recognizes that religion(s) exist, nor that the existence of any religion(s) might impact the citizens of the United States." A voucher program for expanding school choice does not establish a religion.
Every parent or guardian of a minor child, if given a school voucher, would have the option of using that voucher to send the child to a public school or a private school. Taxpayers would not be supporting a religion, but merely fulfilling their legal obligation to support educating the young, as we have done for decades. That certain parts of the curriculum might appear to be religiously based is not the issue here, since no child would be coerced by anyone (other than his or her parents) to endure it.
The ACLU says that "vouchers ... have done little to improve student performance[.]" That is about as weak as you can get in terms of accusations. When you're told that something hasn't done much good, you have to ask, "But has it done any harm?" Apparently no real harm has been done, since had any harm had been reported -- any at all -- it would have been the lead paragraph of the ACLU's defense of the status quo.
In fact, one bit of information alone should debunk any such claim. Gary Jason penned an interesting piece for American Thinker on August 21, 2011 titled "The Superiority of School Vouchers Demonstrated." Mr. Jason noted that "[t]he 2010 study of the D.C. voucher program done by the U.S. Department of Education ... shows that the students who went to voucher schools had a 21% higher graduation rate than students who applied for vouchers but lost the lottery (91% versus 70%)."
That appears to be a rather effective answer to the question of whether the voucher system is doing only a little good for the students that are affected.
Sadly, like proponents of global warming, the ACLU offers no evidence substantiating the claim that private schools have not improved student performance. Vouchers do not teach. Vouchers do not educate. Vouchers do not inspire students to achieve their potentials. Some private schools do these things. So do some public schools. But to claim, or even infer, that public schools do a superior job of teaching our children is pathetic. Study after study has shown that massive increases in spending for education per student have not shown any appreciable improvement in student.
Education spending is a stark example of government run amok. Literally trillions have been spent by a U.S. Department of Education that has failed spectacularly to educate. And their answer, as with all departments in the government, is to spend more. The government, and groups like the ACLU, have grown so elitist as to believe that the idea of allowing the parents who are actually responsible for the children being educated (or more accurately, not being educated) to select the type of school that they favor for their kids is somehow the ultimate expression of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, congenital idiocy, and early symptoms of Tea Party Dementia Syndrome.
The ACLU's attitude reminds me that they are also products of a voucher-free education environment. To quote another of the Founding Fathers, in this case Ben Franklin, their attitude could be explained this way:
"He was so learned that he could name a horse in nine languages, so ignorant that he bought a cow to ride on."
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