Open enrollment programs report only 15% of the participating students are minorities, while Chapter 220 students are 100% minority. (Johnson 2003). I believe this shows that even though the open enrollment program might be cheaper for the state, the results are hardly the same. With the goal in mind of desegregating school districts, open enrollment, while certainly a useful program, hardly seems the way to accomplish this. Putting costs aside, if the Chapter 220 program were to be eliminated, the integration levels of suburban school districts would likely plummet.
After having worked so long and hard on integration of public schools it seems like it would be a real shame to cut Chapter 220 at this point, but perhaps reforms are in order. Feelings for the school choice voucher program of Wisconsin seem to have far greater supporters and detractors as well as those who have downright vehement feelings about the program, than either Chapter 220 or Open Enrollment. The income eligibility for the voucher payment program states that the total income of the pupil’s family may not exceed 175% of the poverty level established annually by the federal government.
As an example, in 2002 the income limit for a family of four was $30,913. 00. The checks are sent to the school of choice, but must then be endorsed by the parent or legal guardian. The “rules” for voucher schools, are not much like those of public schools. Voucher schools just do not have the same accountability as public schools, and in fact: ? Do not have to administer the statewide tests required of public schools. ? Do not have to release data such as test scores, attendance figures, racial breakdown of students, or drop-out rates.
Do no have to provide the same services for special education students or students who do not speak English as their first language. ? Do not have to obey the state’s open meetings and records laws. ? Do not have to hire certified teachers—or even require a college degree. (Special 2000). I personally find those facts somewhat disturbing in that there is little to no accountability for these voucher schools. While the majority of them may be doing an exceptional job of educating our students, what of those who are not?
Standardized tests are a part of public school systems for a reason—we need some method of judging if our teachers are teaching and our students are learning. The fact that voucher schools are not required to provide any data such as test scores, ethnic ratio or attendance records sounds to me like there is a reason not to provide them, or, in other words, something to hide. Even though ostensibly the purpose is to allow the very best education for each and every student, what about special needs students or those with limited English—are they not also entitled to the very best education possible?
Additionally, I believe that public school teachers are required to be educated and certified for a reason, and that safeguard is not in place in voucher schools. Those who have a negative outlook on the school voucher system offer these reasons: a. Vouchers are taxation without representation—Vouchers funnel public dollars into private schools, yet taxpayers have little or no say in how they are run. b. Vouchers violate the separation of church and state—it is very important that we abide by the constitutional safeguards that have steered our country through 200 years.
c. Vouchers take money needed by public schools—when tax dollars go into private schools, it reduces the public’s willingness to increase taxes for public schools. d. Private schools do not have to respect all the constitutional rights of students—they do not have to follow the same mandates. While they are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color or national origin, however they do not have to follow constitutional guarantees in areas such as due process and free speech—rather important guarantees. (Special Voucher 2000)
Alan Borsuk and Sarah Carr, writing for the Journal Sentinel, note that “Now 15 years old, Milwaukee’s school choice program is very much like a teenager—heartwarmingly good at times, disturbingly bad at others, and the subject of myths, misunderstandings and ignorance, even by the adults entrusted with its welfare. ” (JS Online 2006). The program remains somewhat of a mystery even to those state officials who supposedly know what is going on. There are 115 schools in the voucher program; close to 14,000 students at a cost of $83 million to the taxpayers of Wisconsin. (JS Online 2006).
The voucher system began as an experiment on the part of Wisconsin legislators, and was considered at the time “one of the nation’s most provocative education ideas: giving low-income parents the chance to send their children to private schools using vouchers to pay school costs. ” (JS Online 2006). Eight years after the inception of the voucher program, religious schools were also made available to low income parents. This is what the two journalists found during their investigation into the voucher schools: The voucher schools look and feel much like the schools in the MPS school district.
Both voucher schools and MPS are struggling to educate low-income, minority students. About 10% of the choice schools demonstrate “alarming deficiencies” There is agreement on the issue of increased oversight for voucher schools. There are at least as many excellent schools as alarming ones, however, and the voucher program have brought “fresh energy to the mission of educating low-income youth in the city. ” The amount of taxpayer money going to pay for religious education in Milwaukee has “no parallel in the last century of American life. About 70% of the students in the program attend religious schools.
” The voucher system has regenerated parochial schools in the city of Milwaukee. Parental choice does not in itself guarantee a quality education for children—some parents make bad choices when they pick schools, and keep their children in them long after it is apparent the school is floundering. Despite the concerns, there is no evidence that the voucher schools have “creamed” the best students from MPS; “the kids in the voucher program appear to have the same backgrounds and bring the same problems as those in public schools. ” (Borsuk 2006).