Do we need Tuition Vouchers
or School Choice?
believe equity and efficiency call for a universal
approach. If this measure was limited
to low-income students, the same people would be
opposing it on grounds that it
Nobel Prize economist,
Father of School Choice
Academic Choices -
YES; School Vouchers - NO
Yes, Americans need School Choice, but not school
vouchers. Vouchers are a bad funding mechanism that calls to
mind standing in line for food stamps or filing a long
government qualifying form like the college FAFSA
(a mini tax return). Keep it simple. In the present system
your child goes to school and the school gets paid for each
day s/he attends. What's wrong with that?
The School Choice movement wants to change
only one thing -- PARENTS get to say which school instead of
the government designating one of their schools.
School Choice puts child-centered funding ahead of
Americans have long realized the importance of education
and supported free public education with their tax dollars.
Americans also have a long tradition of Choice. Shouldn't
the two work together?
The Choice movement supports free public education, but
invariably the private sector does things better and cheaper
than government. We buy other services from the private
sector, why not education? The issue is CONTROL. Is there
any reason why you should not control the education dollars
for your own child?
- Good teachers
overburdened by bureaucracy and a few incompetent
tired of being brushed aside by the school bureaucracy.
who want to focus on art, writing, science, trades,
farming, technology, or football.
who learned that monopolies never produce the best
product at the lowest cost.
who believe that diversity is America's strength.
who know our future depends on good education for
- Religious believers
who want their children to grow up with strong
Christian, Jewish, Hindu, etc. values.
who cater to the positive influence of more choices and
who believe that government who governs least, governs
- Political leaders
frustrated with the worst test results among developed
tired of paying twice the price of a private education.
who know the ticket to a bright future for their
children is a good education.
- Constitutional scholars
who say the federal government is outside its bounds and
should stay out of education.
who complain that their first burden is remedial
education for government school students.
who understands parents should participate in governing
schools and in assignment of tax dollars.
Center for New Black Leadership:
"From the very beginning, this has been a civil rights
issue for African-American families and children. The
opponents of school choice have been more interested in
protecting the bureaucratic status quo of failing government
schools than helping as many children as possible receive a
quality education." Michael
Williams, CNBL board member and former Assistant
Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education.
Support flows from liberals, Democrats, Superintendents,
Union Leaders -- Not the Usual Suspects. Here's
what they said.
The Trouble is Teachers Unions
All opposition to School Choice traces back to teachers
unions which seized the heart of the Government Education
Monopoly. Here is what some of America's most respected
thinkers had to say:
BILL BENNETT: (former U. S. education
secretary): I think the NEA is one of the most
reprehensible organizations within the law. (There are some
illegal organizations that are worse in the United States).
It is opposed to every serious educational reform. It puts
its own interest ahead of the children. It has complained so
bitterly about the teaching profession that it has
discouraged many people from going into teaching..." PBS
LAMAR ALEXANDER: (former Tennessee governor, and U.
S. education secretary): One problem is that the teachers
unions opposed school choice, they get in the way of giving
teachers more freedom to make their own decisions. They
opposed, although Mr. Shanker (one union president) did not,
to be fair about it, my efforts in Tennessee to pay teachers
more for teaching well. They’re not the only problem, but
they’re standing in the way.
When I was governor, as Mr. Shanker knows, I tried to
raise the pay of Tennessee teachers by 70 percent if they
were among the master teachers and 20 percent for all of
them. The National Education Association defeated that the
The second thing I tried to do was to pay the liability
insurance of all the teachers just as we do state employees
so teachers can’t be sued. The National Education
Association, the largest teachers union, defeated that,
using the teachers’ own dues for insurance because that’s
how they get the teachers to join. When I was education
secretary, I tried to get Keith Geiger, president of
the NEA, to go with me to try to give classroom teachers
more control over how they spend federal funding--federal
money. He said no because he wants to keep that control in
BOB DOLE: (former U.S. Senator and
presidential candidate) I said in San Diego (my nomination
acceptance speech) that if the American education system
were a business, it would be failing. If it were a patient,
it would be dying. We need to turn education back to the
teachers and back to the parents and take it away from the
union leaders and make it work in America again.
note: In June 1998 the Florida Elections
Commission (FEC) ruled that union officials could not
solicit, and their members could not make, campaign
contributions within government buildings through the use of
payroll deduction forms. This could have far-reaching
ramifications in the way labor unions collect political
contributions, leading to a yearly reduction of union
political money across the country by an estimated 100 to
500 million dollars. Case number 96-287 was appealed by
the Education Association and on August 10, 2001, the
First District Court of Appeals affirmed the FEC
Teachers: get help at Education
In Florida, the DOE reports that 2/3 of certified
teachers do NOT belong to the union. We're making progress.
The extent to which the
Education Monopoly will go to hide the truth
Milwaukee's School Choice experiment was evaluated by a
research team headed by political scientist John Witte at
the University of Wisconsin at Madison. For five years the
data from this evaluation was unavailable for secondary
analysis by other members of the scholarly community but
that did not stop opponents from proclaiming victory.
- The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of
Teaching declared, "Milwaukee's plan has failed to
demonstrate that vouchers ... can spark school
- Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation
of Teachers claimed that the "private schools [in
the Milwaukee Choice plan] are not outperforming public
- The Texas State Teachers Association, a National
Education Association affiliate, has avowed that
"the results [in Milwaukee] have been dismal --
test scores have actually declined."
- Harvard School of Education Professor Richard Elmore
asserted that "thousands of children have
participated in Milwaukee's public-private voucher
experiment, ... yet we see no discernible gains in
- The head of Wisconsin's leading teacher organization
echoed: "The bottom line ought to be whether kids
learn more... and if you gauge it by that, it doesn't
All these assessments depended upon the Witte study. .
But in February of 1996 the data was made available on the
World Wide Web. Over the next several months the Center for
Public Policy at the University of Houston (CPP) and the
Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG)
accessed the data, cleaned it of identifiable errors, and
organized it into a readily usable format. After
correcting for detectable errors and using appropriate
analytical techniques, CPP/PEPG found that students
enrolled in Choice schools for three or more years
substantially outperformed, on average, a comparable group
of students attending Milwaukee government schools.
Teacher unions act like School Choice is a risky
experiment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Forty
years ago Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman
essentially proposed we duplicate the success of the G.I.
Bill (Taxpayer funded tuition at any college of a veteran's
choice) in the lower grades. Other countries implemented
School Choice in various ways around the world, leaving the
U.S. dead last in math and science among developed
countries. Read about teacher union support in Sweden,
Germany, Australia, Denmark, Netherlands, Russia, New
Zealand, Belgium, France. See New
Zealand's success at putting governance in the hands of
parents and eliminating the bureaucracy.
These common smokescreens are focus-grouped sound bytes
propagated by teacher unions:
best kids will leave, everyone else will remain.
This falsehood comes from the tired class-warfare-based
assumption that the richest and brightest will leave.
Remember that parents of the richest kids in government
schools have already chosen for them to be there - they had
a choice. Then ask yourself - should the brightest student
(or the most handicapped/challenged student) be forced
to accept schools catering to mediocrity? Should your
child miss the opportunity to be the best s/he can be, so
the education monopoly can convince us "we're all the
same"? No - let's celebrate our uniqueness and
let you seek what is best for each unique child. With
Choice, all schools, even the private ones, constantly
improve to attract students.
schools must educate everyone, even the difficult to
educate, and those kids will be left behind.
Since the supreme court said "every child is entitled
to an education appropriate to his needs" and
established Exceptional Education, legislatures have
provided more than twice the baseline funding (and
frequently much higher) for dealing with special kids. Its
built into the funding formula, and most School Choice
legislation keeps that formula. Furthermore, the marketplace
loves specialties; expect a growth of new Choice Schools
providing real innovative help to children with special
Choice subsidizes private schools, diverting funds away from
public education. The truth is that
School Choice buys a portion of government-funded education
from the private sector at lower prices, just as government
buys other types of goods and services. The saving stays in
public education. The question we should be asking is
"Why is the cost of inferior American K-12 education
higher than any other developed country, with an average
per-pupil cost of $6,857", and why does the average
private school do a better job at less than half the cost?
The answer is bloated bureaucracy. Private and parochial
schools make decisions at the school level, with the
teachers and parents. Every student in a Choice School
reduces the cost of government-funded education. Sure it
reduces taxes to the government school, but its one less
student the government school must support, and reduces the
student/teacher ratio and classroom crowding for the
remaining students. In fact, there is more money left for
government-funded education, because private schools are
CHEAPER. All proposed Choice legislation pays the Choice
schools less than if the student attended a government
school. The difference stays in the government schools or
the taxpayer's pocket. The real fear is that teacher unions
and the bureaucracy will lose their captive audience.
Choice benefits the rich. We currently
allow children from "rich" families to attend
government schools for free. Should we start charging them?
No, its more important to be sure everyone gets educated. If
some kids want a more expensive school that graduates
airplane pilots, let their parents pay the extra cost.
entanglement will result from funding religious schools. Choice
does not funnel government money toward religious
institutions any more than it funnels money toward Microsoft
when it buys software from the private sector. We buy other
services from the private sector, why not education? Why
should a religious affiliation prohibit any school from full
participation? Are they a tainted segment of the private
sector? In June '02 a supreme
court opinion stated for the fourth time that School
Choice has no first amendment problem with religious schools
so long as the plan does not favor any specific church. What
the First Amendment says is simply this: Government cannot
establish a specific religion, nor prohibit the free
exercise of religion. The original thirteen colonies
each had an official state religion and the founders
recognized that as a source of divisiveness. The phony
"wall of separation" exists nowhere in the law, it
is a phrase used by anti-religious bigots.
Still, Choice opponents try to scare some groups into
thinking that Christians want to take over and impose their
beliefs. Teacher unions have used groups like the Jewish
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to spread that fear. For
authentic Jewish positions on how Choice benefits everyone,
of Orthodox Jewish Congregations.
schools are not accountable. Phyllis
Schlafly answered this smokescreen succinctly saying
"Public schools are currently accountable only to the
political bureaucracy that the unions control. Private
schools are accountable to each parent who pays the tuition
and can withdraw their children if the schooling isn't
School Choice draws frantic criticism from the entrenched
government education monopoly.. Here's how Governor Ridge
responded to their irresponsible rhetoric. Great
Change Happens at the Edges
Don't expect all parents to jump ship and invade the
Choice Schools the first year. People simply don't react
that way. Many are perfectly content with what they are
getting in government schools. Some hang back to see what
positive changes occur at their existing schools. Most
kids will continue to attend the school nearest their home,
or their parents work.
Actually, its a good thing that it takes several years
for any change to spread. Private schools simply lack the
space to properly accommodate any influx of students. If
they become overcrowded like many government schools, some
parents choose to stay in a less crowded school. And don't
forget, in Chicago many government schools became Choice
Schools and attracted students back. That is also a GOOD
thing. It didn't take a mass exodus from government schools
to provoke change, it happened at the edges - just because
there was a choice.
The best schools rely on superior leadership
from an excellent Principal. The problem with top-heavy
bureaucracy is that the best Principals get promoted to
"Administration". The children lose because the
large bureaucracy sucks the talent out of the school instead
of paying higher salaries which would allow great principals
to stay in those leadership roles. Where would the great
college sports teams be if the great coaches (teachers) got
sucked into administration?
Why are so many parents making an effort to enroll their
children in quality schools: faking residency, forging
documents and coercing relatives into lying for them? The
point is that when the local school isn't the best one for your
child, you need a choice. If your child needs special help
or wants to take advantage of special opportunities, there
will be a school catering to those special needs. Its how
the marketplace works. To quote economist John
Merrifield: "In a competitive system, demanding
buyers place relentless pressure on sellers by abandoning
the lowest performers. Averages keep getting better, but
harder to define, as producers specialize to gain a
competitive edge by serving particular tastes and
But don't expect instant miracles. The economic
revival of the 90's resulted from a "Peace
Dividend" that had its roots in Reagan's ending the
Cold War many years before -- the effects of change take
awhile to blossom. School Choice is not a magic wand. Some
studies show that most kids don't show significant
improvements till the third year of attending a Choice
school. The system as a whole won't improve significantly
till full and unfettered Choice unleashes the market
dynamics that force every school to compete.
Customer-oriented enterprises focus on continual
improvement. Its steered by product design based on
reactions of the few most careful buyers. That same
adaptation takes place in all schools that deserve to
survive the Choice revolution.
New Zealand did not waste time with
'experiments'. Choice began in the 70's, came into full
bloom 10/1/89, and is an overwhelming success. Read the
testimony of Maurice McTigue, Cabinet Minister and Member of
Danish policy requires Choice Schools to charge a low
tuition to ensure a financial stake and high commitment to
those schools. Also, each school must be governed by a board
elected by parents.
Dutch schools are 2/3 private with equal funding and wide
diversity to reflect many interests and religions.
Why is School Choice so important?
is the foundation of liberty; the surest result of
ignorance is tyranny."
Education must accomplish five goals
Empower us to appreciate the world and
enjoy the richness of life.
Transmit the family's values.
Provide a framework for making
Prepare us to contribute skills in the
Preserve our freedom
Education is the key
Education is at the core of freedom.
That truth was given by a cab driver in San Jose, Costa Rica
in 1984. That cab driver also proved that average folks in
his so-called third world country know more about the world
than average folks here in the U.S. They have a 94% literacy
rate (ours is about a third less) and consequently they have
That's right, there is more freedom in Costa
Rica than in the U.S. We Americans are so self-centered, we
believe that we have the best education and the most
freedom on earth, but its no longer true. If you have never
seen the pathetic answers Jay Lenno gets when he asks simple
questions about government to people on the street, try this
-- ask any student where we get our freedom. Nine out of ten
will mistakenly tell you "We get our freedom from the
The government schools no longer teach
children that freedom is an inalienable right endowed by our
Creator -- a God-given right protected by the
Constitution. If we don't know where freedom comes from, how
can we protect and defend it? And if there is one lesson
history teaches, it is that if you are not vigilant about
protecting freedom, you lose it. Our history is under
attack. Why? In the words of Alexander Soljenitsin "The
way to destroy a people is to sever its roots."
Totalitarianism's technique is to make your founding fathers
and heroes into villains, and empty children's souls of love
of country. This leaves a void to be filled by the
We can reverse our loss of freedom in
America by taking back control of education from the
Government Education Monopoly (the bureaucracy and unions)
and giving it to PARENTS. Why does your state buy all sorts
of goods and services from the private sector, but it only
buys education from government schools? John
Taylor Gatto, former New York Teacher of the Year and
author of Dumbing Us Down shows it is because the
Government Education Monopoly wants to dictate the
curriculum. Al Shanker, president of the American Federation
of Teachers. says "we need a common curriculum" .
And who do you suppose has manipulated and dictated that
curriculum to fit their own agenda? The education monopoly
wants to infuse the mind of your child with their own
political agenda. Instead of trusting or respecting parents.
Elitist educators want to cram their liberal ideology down
everyone's throat so kids believe we are "all the
same" regardless of the choices we make. Even if you
are part of the minority that agrees with their current
agenda, why shouldn't you as parents have the choice? What
will happen when you don't agree with them?
In 1983, A
Nation At Risk urgently recommended reforms in
education warning "the United States is under challenge
from many quarters". In 1997 the Third
International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)
documented our last-place ranking in the world. Today we're
at greater risk than ever. The Government Education Monopoly
continues to imperil our economy by failing miserably at
preparing the workforce. Business increasingly looks for
talent overseas. The world's greatest concentration of PhD's
is in Seoul, Korea and half of Americans can't even find
Seoul on a map. Microsoft India tapped Indian programming
and engineering skills with 83,000 certifications issued in
1999. The number has grown every year. We import 107,000 H-1B
professionals every year, half of them with PhD's.
Unless we re-tool education, there is a strong likelihood
that America will get overtaken in education the way we did
Before the 70's our economy was based on the
automobile, but a complacent automobile industry failed to
make changes. Japanese cars invaded, and canceled our
dominance. The resulting outflow of dollars to Japan
devastated our economy. Its about to happen again, this time
to pay high salaries to well-educated workers overseas.
China graduates far more engineers than the U.S. In 2005
average engineering pay was $85,000, in China $8,500.
Jimmy Carter rewarded the teacher's unions
for their election support by establishing the wasteful
Department of Education. Since then, by every measure,
education has degenerated into a crisis. Those of you who
are deeply involved know there is no "fix". A
revolution in the purchasing of education was proposed
almost 40 years ago by Nobel Prize winning economist Milton
Friedman and is finally sweeping the nation. The School
Choice concept has already scored a profound impact as the
best government schools see the inevitability of Choice and
try to adapt. Teachers unions spend tens of millions of
their members money on false propaganda against any
legislation or candidate in favor of School Choice. But
School Choice victories in the courts, at the ballot box,
and in all honest studies tell parents, teachers, and
taxpayers that Choice will prevail.
To ensure the widest public’s support,
Choice legislation must offer more freedom, be simple to
understand, increase accountability, and not increase anyone’s
tax burden. We recommend the model legislation referenced
Books to Read
Free to Choose, Milton & Rose D.
Dumbing Us Down, John Taylor Gatto
Revolution at the Root, Eggers and Leary
Public Schools by Choice, Nathan (ed.)
Who Chooses? Who Looses?, Fuller &
Break These Chains, McGroarty
God created idiots. That was for practice. Then he
created school boards"
This article brought to you by 4Choice,
dedicated to School Choice without
Click for Model
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