Vouching for Public Schools

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Recently Mitt Romney has decided to promote school vouchers as a way to help fix the “education emergency” we have here in America.

I guess this is ok if his end goal is to get rid of public education.

School vouchers are certificates, issued by the government, that parents can use toward tuition to a private school for their child(ren).  Supporters claim this evens out the playing field and allows economically disadvantaged kids to get into better schools.

What it really does is decrease funding and enrollment in public schools.

Romney’s plan would be that vouchers would help poor and disabled students “flee failing public schools” for a better education. This would reroute a huge chunk of the $48.8 billion the federal government spends on poor and disabled children into the private schools.

He has no plan to improve the “failing public schools” other than to say this would make them want to improve so their money doesn’t go away.

Um, Mitt?  No school wants to be part of a failing school district or system, whether they are losing money or not.

And currently, failing schools ARE losing funding. By taking MORE away, you are not helping them get better.

It’s not that the WANT to be better isn’t there — it’s that the funding isn’t there to help.

The number one reason America has failing schools is due to lack of support–both from the government and the the people living in the public school districts.

And what makes a school ‘failing’ anyway?

Low test scores.

In a survey I did about public schools, over half the respondents claimed that one of the biggest problems in public education is the focus on testing.  Yet, if schools don’t continue to improve their test scores year after year, they are deemed a “failing school”.

I don’t care how great a school’s reputation is, the minute it is labeled as “failing”, it loses the support of the community along with the financial support of the government.

I work in a district in which we went from being a high-achieving school to failing in about seven years. It wasn’t because of anything the teachers or administration was or was not doing, it was due to a change in clientele.

The community where my school is located used to be highly blue-collar working class. There were at LEAST three major, national manufacturing plants (most related to the auto industry — remember, I’m in Michigan).

Due to the economy, one by one, each closed.

The face of our community is 100% different now. We have many unemployed parents. We have many single parents. We have an incredibly diverse student body. And we have an incredible number of “at-risk” students.

Many of our kids are not read to. Many of our kids are a product of teen pregnancy. Many of our kids have suffered some form of abuse or neglect.

Over 70% of our population receives free/reduced lunch.

Our scores plummeted. Why?  Well when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from or whether your dad will be coming home sober…or at all…you really don’t care about homework or a spelling test.

We were in danger of being taken over if we continued to fail, and wouldn’t you know it, parents started moving out of district, people started using school of choice to get their kids in the “better” districts near us, and the community started voting down mils to improve technology and other things.

Our staff has done GREAT things and made HUGE leaps since our failing status and are now making Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) each year.

We worked with what we had.

We volunteered our time.

It’s difficult for us to continue to improve though because we have been stuck with this label of failure. We are very quickly approaching a plateau that will be impossible to leap from without support.

If Mitt has his way, parents will be pulling their students out of schools like mine and sending them to the private schools.  We would not only lose thousands in funding, but it would destroy any community support we have. It would give everyone a free pass to just “get out” instead of “get better.”

And then what?

How do we recover from that?

We don’t.

Instead of giving that money to poor and disabled kids to go to a private school, how about putting that back into their home and public school to improve their education there?

How about creating community-building programs for families and public schools to work together for the success of ALL students?

How about backing a system that will improve the failing schools by giving them MORE funds and more support?


  1. I’ve seen some of your tweets about education. I know how passionate you are about the public school system (as you are with most things) and applaud you for it. I don’t happen to share your feelings on this subject. I hope I can respectfully share my thoughts. Maybe offering a different viewpoint could help you or your readers understand another opinion, even if you don’t agree.

    I believe a child’s education should be put in the hands of the people most qualified (and ultimately most responsible for) them-their parents. I know my children best. I will choose which school or system of learning will most benefit my children. My first responsibility is to them, not to the public school system, the public school teachers, or the public school administrators. If the public school system is worth it, if it is the best, it will survive a voucher program. If it didn’t survive then why force people to participate in a program that is no longer working? I agree that finding and supporting a community is important, but not more important than the child. The needs of the individual child should always come first, especially to the parent.

    If a school or some part of the education system isn’t working for a child, it is up to the parent to make it right. That could involve simply more supplementation at home, a tutor, or ultimately changing schools. And with my children? I will choose err on the side of caution. If a public school education isn’t going to work for one of them, I will happily make another plan. Either way, I will be deeply involved in helping build any community we choose. It will include volunteering in the classroom, attending PTA meetings, reviewing curriculum, etc., regardless of whether that is found in private school, public school or even homeschool.

    Ultimately, that decision rests with my husband and I. One of the best things in our society is how we have so many options.

    If the government offered a pair of shoes to my child that didn’t work (wrong size, style, etc) I would appreciate the offer, but choose another option. I would purchase another pair, barter, or make them myself. (LOL) If that person said, ‘You know, this is built into your taxes, you’ve really already paid for them. Why don’t you take the cost of the shoes & put it towards another pair?’ I would gratefully accept it.

    Thank you for writing such a thought provoking piece.

    • I agree that it is ultimately up to the parent. And I don’t think I would have such a problem with vouchers if there was ALSO a plan to fix the current public school system…which I agree is totally broken the way it is. Or maybe not broken, but definitely not working in all cases in all areas.

      I am actually a big proponent of choice. If you have been following my posts on here, I have been doing a series on schooling options. There are pros to all kinds of educational choices, but it really comes down to what is best for those individual students.

      I believe in school for all. I believe that public schools can be that. But they have to be fixed.

      And if giving people money to send their kids to private schools and shutting down public schools is the answer, well, that makes me sad. Because it won’t be school for all…because the government WILL NOT pay for all kids to go to school in private schools without taking over those somehow and ruining them too.

      There has to be a better solution.

  2. I’ve never understood the logic of, if you are failing we will take away your money. Cuz, yeah… how are you going to fix that?


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