School Vouchers: Means to equity

Tom Hyde - Staff Writer

The most important element involved in the decision of whether or not to make school vouchers public policy is philosophical in nature. Our policymakers, public advocacy groups and leaders in the field of education must ask themselves one simple question: Do we, as citizens of the freest democracy in the world believe that every child deserves an equal opportunity to receive a quality public education?
Naturally, we should be concerned as a society with the education afforded to the future leaders of our country. Although many liberals criticize taking public funds to send children to private schools, the essence of the issue is whether or not this will provide a better education.
With the evolution of charter schools throughout the country under a Democratic administration in the 1990’s, it has been evidenced, first and foremost, that the government and even those liberal leaders who criticize school vouchers, that schools are better managed privately, and not through the current state and federal measures.
Public schools today are perpetuating a system of inequality that cannot be fixed without decisive and dramatic reform.
With the rapid decline of the state of many of the country’s poorest school systems under the Reagan administration, realistically, we are segregating students based on race and socioeconomic status, disenfranchising the youth of the country and deepening the divide between those who have little and those who are wealthy. The fundamental flaw with the education system in our country is the fact that property taxes fund the local school systems.
Inherently, wealthier communities will have better facilities, more qualified teachers, more parental involvement and more educational resources at their disposal than their inner city counterparts.
Until the government is ready to takes steps towards regionalizing local tax bases, or finding alternate ways to fund public schools in America, there should be an alternate choice available to those parents who want to send their children to a school where they can actually learn.
Ironically, the same liberals who espouse equality and economic integration on so many other public policy fronts are also delaying the expansion of a school voucher system.
Republicans and like-minded Democrats who can see the value in providing a fair educational system for all Americans are advocating, in a sense, treating school systems like a business, a tactic endorsed by the Clinton administration.
By making schools prove their worth to the community and state they are supposed to be serving, the quality of education in those poor school systems can only improve.
Under the ospices of competition, school boards in all communities will need to improvise and think creatively to compete for students to fill their classrooms. In communities that lose much of their student population, our government needs to set up an independent efficiency commission to correct the ills that have kept student attendance down.
The very nature of our constitution and democracy dictates that we provide equal opportunities for all, including the poor. To force children to attend sub-par schools based solely on their ability to pay for a better opportunity is elitist and in many ways subjugating them from the rest of society.
If liberals who oppose vouchers were ever exposed to the populace they represent for using education as a political football at the expense of the very future of this democracy, there would undoubtedly be a second Republican revolution and they would be ousted by their electorates.
Inner city communities in this country elect leaders who identify with their individual needs to enhance education, to create more jobs and to end the cyclical oppression of minorities and the poor.
There is no better example of politicking at the expense of the people than found within the context of this issue’s debate. Naturally, education has always been the albatross of the Republican party, so it comes as no surprise that Democrats are unwilling to admit they have been beaten to a better solution by the conservatives in Washington.