It’s a little known fact that when the Bush administration first sent its No Child Left Behind bill to Congress, its priority was not reforming schools but privatizing them. NCLB initially set up an impossible set of testing standards (e.g., a kid speaking no English arriving in school the day before testing would literally have to take the test the next day in English) so parents could pull their children from these “failing schools and use taxpayer money to attend private schools. (Read: Christian schools.) Congress knocked that down, but the Right’s dream of destroying public education lives on.
Now the cause is vouchers, packaged under the slogan of “school choice,” which only makes sense if you aren’t thinking. The “choice” of attending a private school is never with the family — it’s with the private school. They decide who to admit and who not to admit.
Let’s assume the best — that vouchers will only be made available to truly low income families in disastrous schools. Voucher laws typically grant $4000 for tuition, which covers 1/5 to less than half of private school costs. Will private schools open their doors to those kids out of the goodness of their hearts? Will they handle the kids whose fathers are in jail, who come to school with no food in their stomachs or clean clothes on their backs, who get sick and can’t go home because mom can’t get off work and grandma can’t drive, or whose parents can’t be bothered with homework or parent conferences anyway?
You know they won’t. What they will do is take the disadvantaged kids who can run a football or slam dunk a basketball, use taxpayer money to subsidize part of their tuition costs, get their star athletes and “cream of the crop” students at a bargain, and leave behind public school systems with that much less money to spend on the kids who remain.
It’s a cynical thing to pass this off as “reform” and “choice.” It’s a sick thing to imagine that somehow our nation will be made better off by destroying public education — and not caring that you do precisely that.