Our "education president" was out on the campaign again today promising to save American public education by taking it private through a new voucher program. But my disagreement with the president (and his lapdog Congress) is not with the concept of school vouchers but with this particular proposal. In the plan, the federal government will provide $15 million in vouchers for kids in the District of Columbia to apply to private school tuition.
Politicians, especially of the Republican variety, are forever telling us that they want to reduce the size of government, return all manner of things to local control and get the feds out of our lives. Which is baloney, of course, especially when it comes to DC. The members of Congress are constantly telling the District (and the other local governments surrounding DC) how to run everything from ambulances to snow removal to schools.
I’m not about to tell you that DC does a good job of running things, but if Congress was trying to do the same thing in Chicago, St. Louis or any other city, the local representatives would scream bloody murder and bring the interference to a halt. The people of the District of Columbia, of course, don’t have any representatives in Congress and, since they didn’t vote for Bush, none in the White House either. So, they get political campaign fodder like this dropped on them.
The other part of this voucher plan that bothers me is that students can only take the money ("as much as $7500 per student") to private schools (although the campaign commercial was filmed at a charter school). With few exceptions, that will cover 1/4 to 1/2 of the tuition at a private school in the District. And most of the families who will get the vouchers, probably will have a lot of problems covering the rest.
Oh, by the way – please tell me how any of this is going to improve the public schools in DC. Don’t give me that competition crap since the large number of charter schools, which were supposed to improve schools through competition aren’t doing the job.