Saturday, April 03, 2010

From the Archives: School Vouchers

I was just looking at my blog archives and realized that I have been blogging on and off, but somewhat fairly regularly, for almost 8 years now. I started blogging in the summer of 2002. When I look back on that, I have to say that it's pretty incredible. I don't know really when the blogosphere took off, but I do believe that I was right there pretty close to the beginning and certainly before blogging became so popular and prominent. Now, granted, I haven't accomplished anything anywhere close to what many have been able to do with the medium, but I still take some pride in the longevity of my blog. It's changed somewhat over the years, but not too much. I was looking over the first month of my blogging and came across a posting that I made then on the whole school voucher idea that I still think has relevance today and which I still think hasn't adequately been answered by voucher supporters (at least I haven't come across any adequate answers to my critique). Anyway, I believe it was a thoughtful posting then and think it's worthy of reposting now, so here it is:

Just a quick point to ponder about the School Voucher debate: It's a very nice thought that School Vouchers equals School Choice - but does it, really, provide for such a choice - or at least a meaningful choice? Would highly-regarded suburban public schools and urban private/parochial schools (or should I say the students and the parents of the students in these schools) welcome inner-city voucher students to their learning communities? Putting a voucher in someone's hand doesn't neatly translate into supporting REAL school choice. In order for school choice to mean anything, voucher students must have the option to REALIZE their choice, which is something most voucher advocates haven't really thought much about. To use a common metaphor, it's as if someone were to hand me a fishing pole, some bait, a boat, and even give me fishing lessons; but then tell me that the lake with all the good fish in it that he fishes in was, ahem, off limits.
Original blog posting here.


LAmom said...

Congratulations on your blogging longevity!!

Concerning school vouchers, I can talk about it from our point of view. Our church (my father is the pastor) runs a private school in an area that has a large black population. We try our best to provide good educational opportunities and an attractive alternative to the local public schools, most of which are considered sub-standard.

There are many families who are very glad that they are able to send their children to our school. There are many others who would love to enroll their children if only they could afford it. School vouchers wouldn't get their children into Rolling Hills Prep, but they would indeed get them into Carson Christian School, which is better than having no choice but Compton High.

I'm not saying that there aren't any potential disadvantages to school vouchers, but in terms of the availability of voucher-accepting schools, keep in mind that there are some private schools in the 'hood.

Huck said...

LAmom - That's an excellent point, and one that addresses my concern about allowing voucher recipients the opportunity to be able to realize the purpose of the voucher. What you describe offers some choice, but I still worry about whether those who speak about vouchers more in the absolute sense of giving students a full range of choices really are accepting of that commitment. To be more specific, my question really gets at whether the reason why students couldn't get into Rolling Hills Prep is strictly financial and not something else. At least where I come from, many voucher supporters hail from conservative suburbs where racial, cultural, and socioeconomic homogeneity trump diversity driven by merit and this places real limits on school choice.

You are absolutely correct that some choice is better than no choice; but doesn't it concern you that, even with vouchers, Rolling Hills Prep is apparently still off limits, for whatever reason, to worthy, voucher-eligible students who may prefer to go there.

I am not averse to some form of voucher program, but I do think that a voucher program not carefully thought through can perpetuate (and perhaps entrench even more) hierarchies of opportunity based on something more than merit, which is what I have always understood vouchers to seek to mitigate.

By the way, Happy Easter to you and yours!