Forum 1: School vouchers can help low-income parents | Columns

VOUCHERS PUT educational choices for children in the hands of the people who care most: the parents. The voucher program was developed in the 1980s to give low-income families more choice in where their kids go to school. Rich people already have this choice.

Why should this choice be denied to low-income kids who especially need a school environment that will help them acquire the skills needed to compete in a world where jobs are increasingly based on cognitive skills?

Vouchers give less affluent families the option of having money that would ordinarily be spent educating their children in public schools applied toward tuition in a private or parochial school. Vouchers have the potential to make struggling public schools perform better because they will need to become competitive if they are to attract the “business” of parents who suddenly are empowered to weigh the merits of various schools.

Instead of welcoming competition, which can give failing public schools incentive to improve, the National Education Association, the public school teachers union, cried bloody murder. The NEA claims that vouchers will harm public schools by denying them funds. This puts the interests of unionized teachers above those of children. They argue that it is wrong to allow parents to spend education money as they, and not the unions, see fit.

But public money earmarked for the education of children is earmarked for—well—the education of children and not for specific schools. Moreover, families are unlikely to use vouchers to remove their children from thriving, safe public schools where children learn and develop social skills. But, if you believe the NEA, voucher-using students do not profit from the experience—an odd assertion, which says, in effect, that it doesn’t matter where poor kids go to school.

A crime-ridden…

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