For the last hundred years, the public school system has gradually become more diversified. Students with high IQs sit next to students with learning disabilities, and kids from all classes learn together. With such diversity in our schools, can the traditional public school system really accommodate everyone?
Unfortunately, every 26 seconds, an American child drops out of the traditional public school system. The United States spends more per capita on education than most other countries, yet our test scores lack in comparison to other countries. We are failing to educate our students properly. It’s clear that we need to reform our education system.
Education reform is an issue that liberals and conservatives alike are concerned with. There’s an ongoing war between the ideologies about how to best educate children. Both sides agree that children deserve to find an education system that fits them best. However, it’s outlandish to believe that traditional schooling can accommodate everyone. School vouchers could potentially solve the educational gap.
The Washington Post reports:
School vouchers are one of the most contentious issues in public education. Nineteen states and Washington, D.C. have either voucher systems or “scholarship” programs that provide tax benefits to individuals and businesses for contributions that help pay for students to attend private school. The vast majority of these programs are targeted at specific groups of at-risk students, such as low-income or those with special needs.
In most states, we penalize families who choose to pull their children out of the public school system. School vouchers can offset the cost of private education by giving low-income families monetary aid. The vouchers have a monetary value significantly less than what public schools spend per student. Vouchers give families the option and opportunity to choose the best school for their children, who in turn receive the best education they possibly can.
Washington D.C. adopted a voucher system (before Barack Obama shut it down early in his first term), and its success stands as proof that this system does work. A study done by Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas found that voucher programs helped increase graduation rates in D.C schools. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program raised a student’s probability of completing high school by 12 percentage points, from 70 percent to 82 percent. After adjusting for some students who declined to use their scholarships, the data shows that actually using a scholarship to attend a private school increased graduation rates by 21 percentage points.
A similar voucher system in Milwaukee produced similar results. Students who participated in this program scored 11 percentage points higher on math and 6 percentage points higher on reading compared to those in traditional public schools.
Families that participated in voucher programs have praised the programs as a godsend to their children. “I went through the New Orleans public schools myself and I know how bad they can be,” said one Ms. Treaudo, who dropped out of high school and later got her GED. “The voucher saved our lives and gives my boys a chance for an easier life than I’ve had.”
Opponents claim that vouchers take away from public school funds. However, the opposite is true. Local- and state-run school district funds are distributed based on total enrollment and total cost per student. The total of those two costs are split between the state and the local districts. As information published by the Friedman Foundation rightly points out, “When students choose to attend a school of choice, the local school district doesn’t need to pay for the instructional cost associated with that student.” Thus, neither the state nor the local district loses money on this deal because any lost income is saved in reduced expenses.
Vouchers, by contrast, can be financially liberating for families. Normally, if a family chooses to send their child to a private school instead, they pay tuition costs in addition to local school taxes. A voucher means that the government gives that family a certificate worth a set amount of money to spend at any school of their choice. That family can now choose a school for their child without bearing the financial burdens associated with withdrawing from a public school.
The bottom line is that we need education reform in America, and the “one size fits all” model doesn’t work for an education system. Each student learns differently, and the public school system simply isn’t for everyone. The research is clear: school vouchers have far more benefits than negatives. They increase competition among schools, which ensures that students can get the most out of their education. The traditional public school system is crowded, and vouchers help reduce the influx of students.
School choice provides individualized attention that creates a learning environment which fosters success. It’s important that we have a system that can best facilitate individual students learning. The path to creating that system is school choice.