Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Will a voucher program be a Trojan Horse for control of private schools?

Rep. Frank Nicely posted this recent comment on a Facebook post:

We need LESS federal involvement in education, not more. My fear is that any federal voucher program would be used as Trojan Horse for more federal mandates, not just on public education, but private schools as well. $1,300 dollars per child will do little to make better private schools more accessible, but will let the federal bureaucracy in yet again to steer the course for our children's academic curriculum.
He also posted a link to to an article from the Cato Institute. Below is an excerpt from the article and the link:
GOP Senators Playing With Federal Education Fire

It’s easy to understand why several prominent GOP Senators, including Sens. Lamar Alexander, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio, are sponsoring federal school voucher legislation. State-level voucher programs have raised student achievement, increased high school graduation rates, and boosted college matriculation. School choice programs are also market-based initiatives that aid and appeal to low-income voters. As Senator Paul argued:....

It is very likely that a federal voucher program will lead to increased federal regulation of private schools over time. While there’s no law of the cosmos that states that federal dollars must come with strings attached, they most often do. And while the GOP legislators proposing the vouchers will likely keep regulations light at the outset, when the political pendulum swings—as it inevitably will—opponents of vouchers might find that it’s politically easier to add regulations to the program than to kill it outright. Once private schools become dependent on the federal money that their students bring with them, the vast majority will accept the new regulations rather than forgo the funding.
I have generally been in favor of school voucher programs. The most widely used education voucher program was the GI Bill.  Hundreds of thousands of adult students attended the college or trade school of their choice using the GI bill. It served us well.  

I support more school choice. However, I think the concern of Representative Nicely and Cato are well-founded.  Some people have expressed concern that vouchers could be used by some parents to send their child to a Muslim school.  I would not be overly concerned if a parent wanted their child to be educated in a Muslim school. However, there is a branch of Islam, the Wahhabi sect, that is being financed by  the Saudis and they are aggressively establishing schools around the world. These schools teach a radical form of Islam and are radicalizing many Muslims. I do not think it far fetched to think that there are or will be Wahhabi schools in America and I would not want tax dollars flowing to these schools. So, would we prohibit the use of vouchers to Muslim schools?  Would authorities have to examine curriculum to separate the good Muslim schools from the bad Muslim schools?

I can also see a group of white nationalist establishing a school.  Maybe far fetched, but it could happen. What about schools that do not teach hate or radicalize students but simply teach ignorance?  Should a Christian school that teaches as fact creationism and Biblical accounts of Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, the parting of the Red Sea, and that the earth is only 6,000 years old be financed with vouchers?

I see no way to have a voucher program without the funding authority regulating content of the curriculum.  I think Cato is right that what might start out as minimal regulation would grow.  I think we should reject a Federal voucher program and leave it up to each state to develop their own voucher program if they desire. I am also concerned about a state dictating to private schools but I fear state authority less than Federal authority. I would still like for the State to experiment with vouchers but think we should take if slow and realize the dangers. The Cato piece and the embedded links within the piece provide good food for thought.

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1 comment:

  1. The REAL Trojan Horse would be Common Core...not the voucher program.