An Argument in Opposition of Education Vouchers
Why would anyone wish to withhold support for a program that has the potential to revolutionize the, often, insufficient American education system? This question has undoubtedly entered the mind of proponents of education voucher systems across the country. However, despite the pressure placed on legislators everywhere, close scrutiny of the real issues should not be clouded by public fervor. It is my belief that, after a thorough examination of the merits of such programs, school vouchers would be a gross detriment to both the American education system and the nation itself.
In an education voucher system, students are given "vouchers" for the tuition of any private or public school that accepts transfer students. Parents must pay the remainder of the tuition of the school to which they send their child if it exceeds the maximum amount of the voucher, which is usually around $3000. While the specifics of these programs vary, these statements hold true for the only two voucher programs currently in effect, in Cleveland and Wisconsin.
Paramount of issues at hand is that of the constitutionality of voucher programs. The Establishment Clause prohibits a state religion and guarantees all the freedom to practice whatever religion they should desire. The Supreme Court, along with many lower courts, has held the Establishment Clause to mean also that neither federal, state, or local governments may support a religion, including financially. Voucher programs represent direct state financial support to private, often parochial schools. In fact, even the checks in Cleveland's program, while addressed to the parents, are currently mailed to the school first.
Proponents of voucher programs argue that the type of support offered doesn't violate the Establishment Clause and is very similar to currently accepted programs such as the GI Bill. The major problem with that argument, however, is the nature of the GI Bill. While voucher programs offer vouchers to all eligible students in their respective districts, the funds from the GI Bill are available only to members of the Armed Forces. These funds, though conditional, are clearly a form of repayment for military service.
Another point put forth by proponents is that of competition between schools. They believe that competition between private schools and public schools as well as each other will improve not only the private schools but also the public schools with which they compete. This argument yields two concerns, however. First, people should consider the problems that arose from many trade schools opening for the purpose of collecting money from government grants. A large number of such schools simply enrolled students to be eligible for grant money and provided only a limited education. Of course, this scenario doesn't parallel that of a school voucher program, but the concerns about schools being created simply for the purpose of collecting...