There is school choice today. Those who can afford to do so can choose private or home-school education. They pay for these choices while continuing to pay public school taxes, ergo an expensive choice. Many districts today have school choice options within. District residents can send their kids to any school that has room for more students. The children in the local school zone get first choice, but the school can fill with any other kids from the district. District students can also choose any charter school. Charters are free of zone restrictions. If a charter gets more requests to enroll than space, students are chosen by lottery. So, it isn’t as if there aren’t any school choices for families today, but choosing some may bring monetary or travel issues into play. In choice districts, vouchers will not offer anyone a better choice of community or charter schools than families have now.
There will be winners and losers. If House Bill 610 is enacted in its current form, the public school system will be a loser. Community and charter schools are severely underfunded as the system functions today, and will be more so if federal money that has been solely theirs is put toward vouchers, diluting the cash over a wider spectrum of schools.
The poor, working class will be the biggest losers–again. They will lose because their options will not change. They can neither afford to supplement voucher money for more expensive choices, nor afford the costs of travel to a charter or choice school that may best suit their particular needs. Their only option will remain the community school in their area. Public schools in poor neighborhoods receive less funding than neighborhood schools in more affluent zones due to a much smaller local tax base. With less money being applied to public schools, community schools in poor areas will likely become even more impoverished than they are today.
The winners will include those who choose to home-school, as they will have a pot of money to use for educating their children that was not available before. Also private schools will get some of the middle class families to choose their services by using the voucher and adding their own money. Those middle-class families will view themselves as winners as well. They may have been striving for a private education for their children that eluded them before, but is within reach using the voucher plus their own cash for tuition. Both private school and home-school enrollment will likely increase.
Biggest winners are the wealthy families (again) who already send their children to private schools. They will get what equates to a huge tax break no one else will realize. They are paying tuition now and will continue to do so while costs are cut using the voucher.
This issue alone is one for courts to examine. When federal tax dollars are sanctioned for one class of people to make choices that are denied to another, it transcends states’ rights to rule education, and falls into the jurisdiction of equal access under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Legal issues are exacerbated with the elimination of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as called for in HB-610. The 1965 law covers all of our equal access, disabled student accommodations, regulations for school safety, anti-bullying, and accountability for achievement. These protections do not have to be eliminated with the passage of HB-610 and some states have similar laws on their books that will keep some, but not all, of these protections in force. However, many do not and with limited funding, activity that is not regulated and is found to be too expensive to continue (think sports programs for boys and girls, art, music, drama, advanced placement classes, English as a Second Language classes, even keeping school safety and bullying records–anything that costs money) will be on the table for extinction.
It is not worth the chance of causing children to lose federal protections and choices of school activities that they now enjoy by repealing laws that safeguard them simply hoping states will continue to comply.
Please read about and fully understand, before we go head-first into the murky waters of picking winners and losers in education, that among all the choices, one does not stand out as more effective than any of the others. Tests scores do not reveal a clear winner.
There are both exemplary and failing examples to show in each category of school. Charter schools close every year because they did not meet the standards of their contract. Private schools build fine reputations over years, but there are as many failing students in them as in any other type of school. There are many wonderful and productive public schools along with those run-down and failing.
The reasons for success or failure in all types of schools are similar; community support, quality of teachers, consistent administration, strong curriculum, not because someone chose them. Test scores and surveys simply do not show any one choice above the others.
HB-610 is rife with problems both societal and educational. It tips the scale in favor of part of our citizenry, ignoring another. Public schools are egalitarian and a reflection of our democracy. We should continue to concentrate our funding on public schools–community and charter–and fix the problems that do exist so that every student can reach their full potential without picking winners and losers among kids before they have a chance to prove themselves.