Gov. Scott Walker announced plans to expand private school voucher and charter school programs Monday. While charter schools may be a reasonable investment, vouchers have many draw backs that outweigh their benefits.
School vouchers have a noble goal, but ultimately are counterproductive to the greater good. While students who are lucky enough to receive vouchers benefit from the program, those who do not receive vouchers suffer. Rather than investing in strengthening public education the governor has decided to give a select few a way out.
Vouchers promote a system in which it is acceptable to let our public schools fail in order to provide quality education for a select few. Directing resources away from public education is not going to improve schools. The expansion of vouchers and charter schools will cost $117 million and will only serve 32,000 students, while the public school system, which serves 880,000 students will only see an increase of $276 million.
This means that for every additional dollar that the state will spend on a public school student, it will spend an additional $10 on a voucher or charter school student. This is unacceptable. We are spending more new money per student on kids we are sending to private schools than on kids in our public school system. Rather than focusing on improving our public schools we are focused on sending kids away from them.
Furthermore, vouchers do not put any sort of safeguard in place to prevent private schools from raising tuition. Tax payers have no way to ensure their money is being spent efficiently. Private schools are not forced to accept the voucher.
Vouchers also blur the line between church and state. While public schools are secular, vouchers incentivize students to go to private schools that are often religious. While I personally believe learning about religion is enriching and a valuable part of educational development, this is no reason to put someone’s tax dollars towards a religion he does not agree with.
The First Amendment has been a part of this nation since its conception, and it should not be violated in the form of government subsidies for private religious institutions. That being said, I understand there is a point where the line becomes blurry. While the First Amendment issue isn’t necessarily the biggest problem with vouchers, it is something that is there and should not be ignored.
Charter schools, on the other hand, are an experiment that has the potential to revolutionize education as we know it. While there are issues that need to be worked out with the structure of charter schools, the programs that exist have been quite successful.
In 2010, Steven Brill wrote an article for The New York Times Magazine in which he compared a charter school and a public school in New York City and determined the charter school spent less money per student and achieved better results. While this is not true in all cases, charter schools can offer us models to improve education.
Democrats criticize charter schools because there is a lack of oversight. While I agree there should be more oversight to assure things are fair for faculty and students alike, we should not throw the baby out with the bath water. If charter schools continue to succeed, then they deserve our investment.
If charter schools can provide cheaper and better education we should continue to explore them. Private school vouchers, however, hinder the public school system and should be phased out in favor of investment in the public school system.
Spencer Lindsay ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.