Pláticas en Acción
Use of Public Money for Private Schools
At one time, education varied widely depending on the wealth of a family and on their race. Children whose parents could afford it were sent to private schools. Many poor and minority children had either no schooling or a very basic education.
Since then, schools have improved. Now our children have access to better prepared teachers and teaching equipment, are able to take college preparatory courses, and have numerous opportunities to develop their leadership through extracurricular activities. Children have the right to a free education. Our public education system is funded by the public, and it benefits the public. In essence, it exemplifies the principles of democracy and freedom that are the cornerstones of our society.
What is the issue?
A handful of vocal people want to create system that weakens the quality of public schooling our children receive. Through a voucher system a few students attend private school and they would cut much needed resources to teach children in public schools.
Competition isn’t what improves public education. The fact is that public schools are improving without vouchers. They must meet state and federal standards and regulations that make sure that public schools are safe and are educating children and that all students are served. Private schools do not have to meet such standards. And when public money is set aside for private schooling for a few children, there is less to go around for everyone else.
Vouchers give choices to private schools, not to families. The private schools choose which students can be admitted. They do not have to answer to the public. Furthermore, parents already have a number of choices within the public schools. There are magnet schools, charter schools, and opportunities for children to transfer from a low performing school to a school that is academically successful.
When families don’t like the voucher school, they return to their public school, and their children have a lot of catching up to do. In fact, many families do return to their neighborhood school. Some return because their voucher did not cover the full tuition or pay for transportation, uniforms, books and other fees. Others return because the private school did not offer bilingual education, a gifted and talented program, or a special education program. Most private schools do not have certified teachers and are not held to the same rigid requirements for public schools. When families realize this and want their children to return to their neighborhood public school, their children already have lost time in their learning.
What needs to be done?
We must show our support for excellent education for all children. Here are some ideas:
Talk to other families in your neighborhood.
Organize a group to speak at public events.
Work with groups like your PTA, school board, city council and clergy members to take a stand against vouchers and publicize it.
Write a letter or talk to your state representative and senator.
Organize a letter writing campaign against vouchers.
The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) is a vanguard leadership development and research team working with people to create self-renewing schools that value and empower all children, families and communities. IDRA is an independent, private non-profit organization directed by María Robledo Montecel, Ph.D. IDRA, 5835 Callaghan Road, Suite 350, San Antonio, Texas 78228-1190; 210-444-1710; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.idra.org. © 2003 by IDRA. • Parent Information Resource Center at IDRA •