Nine of the voucher schools would not allow the reporters to observe their work, making one wonder why the secrecy? Like everything on earth, some bad must come along with the good. Alex’s Academics of Excellence happened to be a school begun by a convicted rapist, and kept on enrolling students even after allegations of drug use by staff on school grounds and a DA’s investigation. Thankfully, Alex’s, along with three others have closed—as a result of outside intervention, not due to parental outcry.
Conservatives have focused on the undeniable problems in our public school systems as a reason for the voucher system. They say that the voucher system gives “choice” to parents and students, but in reality they are more interested in privatizing the schools, effectively removing them from “public oversight and responsibility. ” (Special Voucher 2000). The alternative to the voucher system would be to “invest in our public schools, not abandon them,” according to the more liberal stance.
Our society knows how to teach children, it just tends to do that job in unequal measures. Many times a disproportionate amount of money is spent on the already privileged children rather than on the low income areas. Perhaps the largest distinguishing factor in voucher schools comes down to religion. Many of the students in the voucher program schools pray together in class, read the Bible, the Torah, or attend Mass. Even parents who are not particularly religious feel their children will get a better education and learn moral values when placed in a parochial school.
While the religious aspect is a sticking point for those who advocate the separation of church and state, the religious schools are the fastest growing area of voucher schools, and many parents who were interviewed felt their children were receiving a much better education in a parochial school than they did in public schools. Martin Carnoy, a Stanford University professor has been critical of the voucher system, pointing to the fact that other states are not participating. “No other places jumped on the bandwagon, and I think the reason is they don’t see anything spectacular and terrific happening. Basically, they can live without it.
” (Borsuk 2006). It is felt in many sectors that the voucher program has been a huge drain on resources, taking away money and attention from the some 85,000 students who still attend regular MPS schools. These students are effectively losing out so that others can attend private schools. (Borsuk 2006). How do other states feel about the voucher system? The Florida State Supreme Court ruled on January 5, 2006 that Governor Jeb Bush’s pilot voucher program was illegal because it “violates the provision in the state constitution that prohibits using taxpayer money to finance a private alternative to the public education system.
” (OnWEAC 2006). The decision was 5-2 and the court stated that the voucher school program hurt public education because it diverted public dollars into private systems. Voucher schools are being rejected at a national level as in November, 2005, a group of 23 House Republican’s “bucked its party’s leaders and defeated an effort to include a private school voucher plan in the House budget reconciliation bill. ” (OnWEAC 2006). The question remains: What is the future of the Wisconsin Voucher system?
From September, 2005 to January, 2006, the number of low income students attending voucher schools dropped sharply, a decline of nearly 1500 students. This could be due to the fact that three voucher schools were closed because they did not meet minimum standards, or perhaps the reasons are more far-reaching. (School Choice 2006). The Laws have recently expanded the eligibility of voucher recipients, now allowing students who are in schools that have ranked in the “academic emergency” or “academic watch” category for the past three years to receive vouchers. (School Choice 2006)
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently upheld a very controversial state law that prohibits students from using publicly funded vouchers for religious schools. Justice Donald Alexander wrote that the “state is not compelled to pay for religious education; even though the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that these programs are constitutionally permissible. ” (School Choice 2006). Although this was a Maine case, the issue may soon arise in Wisconsin as well. Wisconsin has done its best and tried many alternatives, gone down many roads to improve the education of their children.
Nobody can fault them for this, however it is clear that it is still far from a level playing field, and that more reforms are in order, more programs that guarantee each child a quality education.
References: Borsuk, Alan J. (January 3, 2004). Dream of equal schooling is unrealized. Accessed on May 3, 2006 from: http://www2. jsonline. com/news/metro/jan04/197222. asp Borsuk, Alan and Carr, Sarah. (May, 2006). JS Online: Lessons from the Voucher Schools. Accessed on May 4, 2006, http://weac.org/News/2005-06/jan06/feavoucher.htm.