Vouchers, Wealth Privilege
Time to catch up on some reading 📖.
School “choice” is based on the lies that public schools are failing (they’re not. It’s our society which is failing our children), and that the private sector always does everything better (they don’t. Remember the banking crash in 2008?).
School “choice” is not-so-secret code for school privatization. There’s no proof that children do better in charter schools or with vouchers for private schools. There’s no proof that anyone benefits from privatization – except those who pocket the tax dollars earmarked for public education.
School “choice” began as a way of keeping “my” students away from students of other economic strata or races. If we could choose our school we’ll choose the one where “our people” are – it’s tribalism at its worst. And it has worked. Segregation has increased with privatization through both charters and vouchers.
I am talking about the ugly idea that school choice and competition will lead to better schools. School choice ideology is born in racism, sustained by a concerted disinformation campaign, and designed to develop a work force of compliant worker drones, while further enriching the wealthy and undermining democratic control of the schools. School choice, better called school privatization, will destroy public education. That is its purpose.
…In order to sell the idea of school choice, i.e., school privatization, choice champions had to first sell the false narrative of failing schools. Americans had a long tradition of valuing their public schools, in part because the schools were generally doing a good job and in part because all citizens had a voice in how they were run and how their tax money was spent. In order to change the narrative, privatizers pointed to international test scores, deteriorating schools in the inner-cities, and reports from economists that seemed to show that this could all be changed if we just fired the low performing teachers and rewarded the high performers. So in many cities, local elected school boards were replaced by appointed boards, the public lost its voice, public coffers were raided to open charter schools, who promised but mostly failed to deliver, improvement, and the public schools further deteriorated for lack of funds (See Philadelphia and Detroit).
SCHOLARSHIP GRANTING ORGANIZATIONS
Money earmarked for public education is drained from the public schools using vouchers and charters. In addition, tax revenues are reduced through tax breaks for Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). Here’s how…
But here’s what’s unusual, if not controversial, about the scholarship programs: Wealthy donors can potentially “profit” from their contributions through extensive tax benefits that can drain money from state treasuries which fund public services — including public schools.
The programs are available in 17 states and are being considered by legislators in several others. They are praised by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — a longtime school choice advocate — and are the focus of two congressional bills that seek to create a federal version of the program.
All the programs basically work this way: Individuals and businesses make cash or stock donations to scholarship granting organizations. The organizations award scholarships to qualifying families with K-12 students, primarily children in failing public schools or whose families’ income meets the state’s poverty threshold. Students can then attend a private or religious school of their choice. What makes these programs unique is that donors get a full or partial credit toward their state taxes, which they are not allowed when donating to most other charities, and this allows them to realize a sizable tax advantage when combined with a federal deduction on the same gift. Plus, in some states, donors also get a state deduction.
Instead of closing under-resourced public schools and opening charters which don’t improve on education, we should follow the lead of high achieving nations and invest in our children by providing every neighborhood a high quality public school.
So if we start from the idea that every student should get an excellent education, we start with the proposition to support and renew our public schools.
In doing so, we would need a national commitment to bringing every public school up to snuff.
Many of them already are – Hint: they’re found in rich neighborhoods. The ones that struggle are almost always found in poorer neighborhoods, and that’s no accident. It’s the result of savage funding inequalities.
Yet another series of studies showing that privatization does not improve achievement.
Two new studies of private school voucher programs – one in Indiana and the other in Louisiana – confirm that students using vouchers to attend private schools will see a drop in their academic achievement.
In both programs, students who use a voucher experience a decrease in math test scores in the first few years. This is in line with other recent studies we’ve seen of programs in Ohio and the District of Columbia, where students using vouchers are doing even worse academically.
Steve Hinnefeld explores the Indiana study more closely…
Maybe the message isn’t that voucher students who stick with private schools do OK academically, but that voucher students who do OK academically are more likely to stick with private schools.
THE PRIVILEGE OF “CHOICE”
School choice promoters claim that “choice” allows children to attend the “good” schools despite their zip codes. Is that true or is “choice” just another way (as if we really need another way) to separate the “haves” and the “have nots?” – a false promise to lower classes and un-priviledged minorities (or are they majorities now?) in order to lull them into a sense of complacence about the economic deserts to which they’ve been relegated.
In a perfect world, all parents would be able to locate themselves in a neighborhood with a school that meets all of their needs. Those who advocate for “school choice” would have you believe that using tax dollars to build for-profit charter schools and vouchers will result in more students having access to better schools. “School choice” is one of those things that sounds good in theory, but the evidence suggests that choice policies most often do not result in better options for the students who need it the most.
…There is little evidence that [charter schools and vouchers] help young people in urban areas, where parents aren’t able to transport their kids to “better” schools in other parts of town.
We all want the best for our own children. One way to make sure that our children get “the best” is to make all public schools “the best.” That way every child gets the “advantage” instead of just the children of the wealthy.
Test prep for kindergartners seems like a pretty blatant example of class privilege. But, of course, the argument that advantaging your own kid necessarily involves disadvantaging someone else’s applies to all sorts of things, from tutoring, to a leisurely summer with which to study for the SAT, to financial support during their unpaid internships, to helping them buy a house and, thus, keeping home prices high.
I think it’s worth re-evaluating. Is giving your kid every advantage the moral thing to do?