Vouchers Are Not the Solution for Improving Public Schools
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“Vouchers lead us away from the basic American tradition of a free, quality public education for every student and undermine the kind of comprehensive, systemic school reform that is working […]” (Tirozzi, 1997). This quote taken from Gerald Tirozzi, the assistant U.S. secretary of education for elementary and secondary education, sums up the issue of vouchers. Milton Friedman, a free-market theorist, introduced vouchers, which funnel public funds to private schools, more than forty years ago (Resnick, 1998).
Vouchers redirect money that would have been spent on educating a child in the public school system to a private school of the parent’s choosing. Voucher use is based on two factors, student eligibility and school eligibility. Those students who would be eligible for vouchers are among those in low-income families. School eligibility widely varies state by state. In some states school eligibility is restricted only to nonsectarian private schools, where elsewhere any private school is eligible (Resnick, 1998). Those who support vouchers offer three reasons for their position. One reason being that most public schools are failing, secondly vouchers help the children who use them, and thirdly vouchers create competition that motivates public schools to improve (Resnick, 1998). However, opponents argue that funding should be put toward improving the current public school system for the masses instead of allowing a better education to an elite few. Research is largely opposed to vouchers. Vouchers imprudently use public funds to back religious education, degrade public education, and support elitism.
Vouchers are set up such that they take money from public school funds and redirect it towards private schools and sometimes-religious education. In 1997, a Cleveland Ohio judge ruled the constitutionality of vouchers and as a result a pilot program was installed. Cleveland was torn between those who adamantly opposed vouchers and those who supported vouchers. Ron Marec, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, said the “$5.25 million in state funds for the voucher program this year is money being denied to the public school system” (Walsh, 1997). This is money that for those who have been in any public school know is desperately needed for a number of purchases. The same funds that are going into the pockets of private schools could have funded, textbooks, building maintenance, after school activities, fieldtrips, almost anything that would result in the betterment of the public education for a number of students. Individually, students who qualify for a voucher receive as much as $2,500 to choose from a range of voluntarily participating private schools (Walsh, 1997). Opponents say that vouchers are bad public policy because any program that includes religious schools violates federal and state constitutional prohibitions against...