Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Market Failure of the Day
Voucher supporters had envisioned a system in which parents would choose only good schools, so the worst ones would fall by the wayside due to market forces. But that hasn't proved to be the case. —Amanda Paulson writing in "Milwaukee's lessons on school vouchers"
Milwaukee, Wisconsin has 15,000 voucher students. But in March the cap on that number was raised to 22,500 and signed into law by a Democratic governor—all without the slightest evidence that the voucher program is providing any educational benefit.1
What we do know is this—
The voucher program has given new life to venerable Catholic and Lutheran schools in the city, and has spurred the creation of dozens of new schools - many of them religious - that rely solely on voucher students. All told, about 70 percent of the voucher schools are religious. Some of those schools, like Hope, show signs of excellence, but not all.
In one of the worst instances, a convicted rapist opened a school, which has since shut down. Reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tried to visit all 115 schools then in the program last year, and found a mixed bag. Nine schools refused to let reporters in, and the paper cited "10 to 15 others where ... the overall operation appeared alarming when it came to the basic matter of educating children."
One school was opened by a woman who said she had a vision from God to start a school, and whose only educational background was as a teacher's aide. Others had few books or signs of a coherent curriculum. Yet they've been able to enroll students.
Well, of course they've been able to enroll students! That's parental choice, you know.
The program is targeted to lower income families. Lower income families are, more often than not, less educated families, so it's vital that they make educational choices for their children, isn't it?
Of course the true effect—and current intent2—of the voucher program is to put public money into the coffers of religious schools and starve the public schools. Proponents hope to raise generations of little Christo-Republicans from the lower classes, though they'll also be happy to fund private religious education for the wealthy if they can get away with it.
Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you," so Christo-Republicans and capitalist idealogues have decided to see what they can do with such readily available raw material. It helps enormously if the experiment can be paid for with public funds without any measure of—or accountability for—the outcome. Progressives should be outraged.
Dismantling public education at home and abroad (5/8/06)
No comprehensive academic data has been collected on the program since 1995. In 1995, the legislature eliminated funds for data collection and program evaluation when it expanded the voucher program to include religious schools.
2According to People for the American Way (PFAW), the concept of vouchers was developed in the mid-1950s by economist Milton Friedman, a true believer in "markets." The notion was immediately used to secure government funding to help white children get out of newly integrated public schools and into private, all-white "academies." [back]