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Vouchers and School Choice – First Step Towards a Discriminatory Educational System

School Vouchers: The First Step Towards a Discriminatory Educational System

On November 9, 1998, Jennifer Marshall, Education Policy Analyst for the Family Research Council, declared in a press statement: “Parental choice in education just got a green light from the Supreme Court.” Her statement came as a response to the decision made the same day by the Supreme Court to deny a petition for a writ of certiorari in Jackson v. Benton, a case in Wisconsin which challenges the constitutionality of vouchers in public education. By refusing to take this case, the Supreme Court lets a decision made in the state supreme court stand, in which the court upheld the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program as constitutional. The United States Supreme Court voted almost unanimously to deny cert, indicating either that they agree with the Wisconsin court’s decision or that the case is not worthy of their time or consideration, or both. (Neither the lone dissenter, Justice Stephen Breyer, nor the 8-justice majority released any explanations of their actions.) Legally, their choice not to hear the case sends a passive but clear message: vouchers in public schools are valid under the Constitution of the United States. However, questions remain surrounding the particulars of the Wisconsin program, as well as the larger questions over the concept of vouchers in general. One that is raised is: Can the government in good faith sanction the removal of children from the public schools, at its own expense and at the expense of the children who remain in those public schools?

The Court has been strangely inconsistent in its treatment of voucher cases. In 1973, The Court found that vouchers for religious schools violated the establishment clause, but …

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…The reasons given for extant voucher programs are admirable; what decent-minded society could object to giving disadvantaged students a greater chance? The fundamental problem with voucher programs is that they only treat the symptom, and in the process create a whole new community of disadvantaged children. By refusing to review Jackson v. Benton, the Supreme Court is simply ignoring a question the justices will soon be forced to answer: do voucher programs violate the Constitution on grounds other than the separation of church and state? It is a question they will have to consider thoroughly for its ideological, sociological, and political implications. A vote in favor of voucher programs will give the go-ahead to a construction that could lead to nothing more than an educational model of residential urban sprawl, separating the desirables from the undesirables.

Our Nation Needs Vouchers and School Choice

The Nation Needs School Vouchers

Let’s face it – public schools are failing. SAT scores have steadily declined since 1960. Results from other tests of public high school seniors conducted by independent research groups show a serious decline in the quality of public education over the last several decades. A national voucher system would be a good start at restoring competition and parental choice in education.

Accompanying the steady decline in the quality of education has been a significant increase in the cost of public schools. Spending per student in public schools has increased over 400% in real terms since WWII. Much of the spending increase has gone to finance a bloated, costly administrative bureaucracy, not for putting more teachers in the classroom. The number of administrative employees of the public school system is now almost equal to the number of teachers. Declining academic quality in our public schools at increasingly higher costs indicates that something is fundamentally wrong the current system.

Public education is suffering from the problems of inefficiency, declining quality and rising costs that result when an organization is protected from competition. Insulated from competition, public schools do not face any pressure to operate efficiently or deliver a high quality educational product. In fact, operating efficiently undermines the agenda of the public education bureaucracy, because efficiency would lead to a reduction in funding.

Perverse incentives are in place to guarantee the failure of public schools – the worse public education is, the more money and resources will be budgeted to try to solve the education “problem.” Delivering an inferior product will result…

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…ources would be redirected away from inefficient failing schools to the more efficient, successful schools. In other words, the competitive forces unleashed by a voucher program would give us better schools in The United States at a lower price.

Nothing is more important than the education of our children. There is no surer way to guarantee that our children continue to receive an increasingly inferior education than by continuing to insulate public schools from the very market forces that would promote higher quality education at lower prices. Our country has achieved the highest standard living in the history of the world by encouraging and fostering competition and choice in the marketplace, not by restricting the choices available to consumers. A voucher system would be a good start at restoring competition and parental choice in education.

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