In Washington DC teacher unions are trying to stop a voucher system for the poorest black and Hispanic children. Yet 90 percent of parents are apparently very happy with the scheme. What's the problem?
Opponents claim there is no evidence that the D.C. scholarship program is raising academic achievement. The only study so far, funded by the federal Department of Education, found positive but "not statistically significant" improvements in reading and math scores after the first year. But education experts agree it takes a few years for results to start showing up. In other places that have vouchers, such as Milwaukee and Florida, test scores show notable improvement. A new study on charter schools in Los Angeles County finds big academic gains when families have expanded choices for educating their kids.
Does it cost more?
The $7,500 voucher is a bargain for taxpayers because it costs the public schools about 50% more, or $13,000 a year, to educate a child in the public schools.
Does it prevent choice?
Many of the parents we interviewed describe the vouchers as a "Godsend" or a "lifeline" for their sons and daughters. "Most of the politicians have choices on where to send their kids to school," says William Rush, Jr., who has two boys in the program. "Why do they want to take our choices away?"
Because just like New Zealand's teacher union and New Zealand's political left, the US unions are frightened that success in the private sector will mean parents abandon public schools. It's not about children and it's not about parents.
The teachers unions have put out the word to Congress that they want all vouchers for private schools that compete with their monopoly system shut down.
It's about unions protecting their patch, whether it grows weeds or prize winning pumpkins. ACT's education vouchers policy is anathema to monopolists (including National?). We will be pushing it with passion.