A few items.
But it isn’t just rural Americans who oppose vouchers. Polls have shown that opposition to voucher schemes is widely shared by Americans across the board. Phi Delta Kappa, an international organization for professional educators, regularly polls Americans to get their opinions on vouchers. Polls have shown opposition to vouchers ranging from 57 percent to as high as 70 percent.
More tellingly, Americans in rural, urban and suburban areas have voted against vouchers repeatedly at the ballot box. Since the 1960s, vouchers (or similar plans) have appeared on ballots in several states as referendum questions. All have been defeated, usually by wide margins.
(Diane) Ravitch, in her speech to the Friends of Texas Public Schools, said aside from the negative educational and financial implications of voucher schemes, there’s a social and civic impact as well.
“A public school brings people together. A public school is a place where people learn democracy. For many people, it’s the first opportunity they have to work together with their neighbors toward a common goal. To work together on behalf of their shared goals for their children.
Here’s a quick download of three recent wins against vouchers—also referred to as tuition tax credits or education savings accounts.
– In the Texas Legislature, a bi-partisan coalition of lawmakers representing rural areas helped kill voucher legislation in the State House. As one conservative lawmaker put it, “I believe that anything that pulls anything away from the public school system rather than improving it is not a good policy.”
– In Tennessee, a voucher bill aimed at Shelby County has run out of steam in the House. The bill, if approved, would divert about $18 million from county schools. Educators and local school board members stressed to lawmakers that parents had other educational options within the public school system. Lawmakers listened and put the bill off until next year. According to one county school board member, “Parents know that they have great choices in Shelby County and I think that was the message that resonated in Nashville.”
– A tuition tax credit bill was voted down in the Arkansas House last month on a 46 to 39 vote. The bill would have given a tax credit to people and businesses that donate to non-profit organizations that fund private school vouchers. Opposition to the bill was bipartisan. One Republican lawmaker said that public money should be used for public schools because public schools “don’t cherry pick their students.” A similar voucher billed failed earlier in the session.
In any case, despite all these encumbrances, these problems are all surmountable. Doing so only requires us to go in the opposite direction away from the boardroom and the Wall Street subprime bubble. We need to work intrinsically for the good of each student. We need to see them as ends in themselves and not just incidentally for how much profit they can generate.
Unfortunately, such a solution is inconceivable to those in power. It goes against everything in which they believe. Too many Americans have been converted to the cult of the market so that the only solution they can support is to double down on what’s not working – to turn public schools even further into a business.
It’s absurd. Not everything benefits from being sold for a profit. Imagine if your spouse suggested running your marriage that way. It would turn you both into prostitutes selling yourselves at ever cheaper rates while any self respect, dignity and love disappeared.
Some things just are not for sale. Would you give up your deepest held convictions because doing so might help you turn a profit? Today I’m not a Christian, I believe in Baal because he’s got a bigger market share. Today I’m skeptical about gravity because the Acme Parachute Company is offering a bonus to jump out of the tenth floor naked.
Only fools let themselves be manipulated in this way. And that’s exactly what corporations and big business are trying to do with our public schools. Make no mistake. These are our institutions – they belong to us – yet privateers see a way to gobble up tax dollars while downgrading the services provided. They want to play us all for suckers even if it means leaving the next generation of poor and middle class children in the lurch. The only thing that matters to them is making bank.