Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why school vouchers are a bad idea...from a conservative viewpoint

School vouchers have received much attention lately and until just recently I, and most conservatives, have been in favor of the idea. Recently though, my wife and I had a conversation and she changed my mind on the entire subject.

Let me first start with my original opinion, which was that parents had a right to spend their tax money on any school that they pleased and government be damned to tell us different. As I watched the progress of the voucher program in my state I was ecstatic that the conservatives had won the fight and the voucher program was extended to be one of the largest in the country. Finally, parents could send their kids to a better school, even if they still lived in the areas with poorly performing institutions.

However, I always found it odd that liberals were so very against this, considering that it would allow inner city children to attend more affluent schools. I still to this day don't understand their argument against it other than the fact that the teachers union is the largest and most influential union in the state...and guess who their members primarily vote for? Yes, Democrats...and we all know that Democrats just cannot fathom the idea of a child being allowed to go to a parochial or private school. Because, don't you know? Parochial schools only teach that the Earth is about 600 years old and that science is the work of the devil (much sarcasm)! Doesn't matter if the test scores and college entry rate is higher....we must keep pumping more and more money into failing public schools!

I could go on for hours on that subject alone, but it is slightly off maybe another time.

Then just a week ago, while attending the parent / teacher night at my kids elementary, my wife started complaining about all of the voucher students they had allowed in and the effect it was having on the school.

How could she be so insensitive....doesn't she care if a child gets a good education? Frankly I was a little more than shocked. But, as she often does, she surprised me with a very simple yet logical argument that I couldn't refute and would think that other conservatives would find hard to argue with too.

I think that a little family background is necessary now to properly explain my wife's position on this.

About four years ago we lived on the poorer side of the city and our kids (well only one at the time) went to a township school that was not very good. Ok....I can't sugar coat it...they completely sucked! The last year that my daughter was there her class ISTEP scores were deplorable. Less that 50% of the kids in her grade were passing language arts and math. They didn't even teach science anymore. No...not kidding...they really didn't teach science. Their excuse was that their kids were having such a hard time with math and English that they only focused on that.  Apparently they didn't really focus on that either considering that over 5 out of 10 kids weren't passing the only two subjects that they still taught. Urrrgghhhh!!!!!

So, my wife and I packed up the kids and moved north to a more affluent suburb. Now...I wasn't making any more than I was when we were on the poor side of town, but we certainly were paying a lot more to live in a better neighborhood. One with a low crime rate and some of the best schools (still public) in the state. My wife and I have sacrificed essentially anything new for ourselves just to provide something better for our three kids. We have two 15+ year old vehicles and struggle to make ends meet. But we wouldn't change that for anything because the kids are thriving in their new environment.

And that is why she has such an issue with the school voucher program. Her issue is simple...why should parents who haven't made the sacrifices that we have just be handed this golden ticket? We had to work hard and struggle to get where we are at...and the struggle has made us better people in the process. Now with the wave of a pen these same parents whom are the primary reason that their schools are failing are being rewarded with the school of their choice?

I know....I know...what is the harm of allowing other kids into your nice school? Isn't that a little elitist and selfish?

Maybe...but I worked hard to do better for my family and just giving things to people has never inspired better behavior. We have already seen the changes in the school. Grade averages have declined and this has scared many parents that live in the district to just move. Why would they move? Simple, when school performance goes down so do property values. If this continues than we will find ourselves in the same position that we were in four years ago.....urrrggghhh!!!!

The forgotten element here is that the primary reason that the schools were failing was not due to the income level but due to the lack of concern from the parents. The parents that do care enough are the ones like my wife and I. People that put the needs of their children first and do whatever is necessary to succeed. Just allowing a parent to pick the best school available is really not fair to those that have worked hard to make that school / community successful.

That is why I think that it is a little surprising that conservatives and liberals are both on the wrong side of this issue.

If you want hard to do better, but don't expect to have what I have without doing the work that I do. It's that simple!!!

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