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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why are vouchers bad for private schools?

Vouchers have long been heralded as a panacea for the ills of the nation's education system. This is an understandable, if illogical, position to take. Knee jerk conservatives like the idea of privatizing anything; if one suggested privatizing the military, there would be a few proponents on the Republican side. Therefore, when it is observed that there is room for improvement in the nation's educational attainment, many conservatives suggest that exposing education to the pressures of market forces would be a viable solution. This sounds great in theory. Then again, so did communism.
The public school system is suffering because it is run and regulated by the government. Remember, this is the same government that is suggesting privatization. That is akin to saying, "Wow, we really screwed this up! Let's have someone else deal with the problems we created." The problem with this mentality is that government is incapable of leaving education to the educators. If government could keep its hands off a privatized system, that would be one thing. But it can't.
Vouchers will force those schools that accept them into taking students who do not fit the private school mold. What is worse, private schools will become dependent upon public funds. Once this happens, the government will have the leverage to force private schools into the same policies which have hampered the effectiveness of public schools. There will be no safe harbor for the students formerly protected by the private school system.
On a positive note, vouchers will once and for all demonstrate whether the demographics of private schools are a primary cause for superior results, an assertion made by many educators in the public school system, myself included. However, I doubt that such an outcome would have much of an effect on the opinions of voucher proponents. Reality and politics do not often intermingle.

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