Definition Of School Voucher

Learn the definition of school vouchers and why they are surrounded by controversy.

Most will agree that our public schools are in desperate need of help and our children are paying the price. However, supporters and opponents of the school voucher initiative disagree as to how to solve the problems plaguing our schools and stifling the education of our nation's children. Supporters of a voucher system assert that such a system will empower parents by providing choices in deciding what schools their children may attend.

This choice to parents comes in the form of a voucher in a predetermined sum. The voucher amount represents tax dollars already being collected from citizens and used for education. Parents would receive a voucher and present it to the school of their choice. Voucher supporters state that since the State has determined and pays a specific dollar amount per student to each school, a voucher system will not impact the budget amount allocated for education; but will simply allow these tax dollars to be placed in the school of the parent's choice.

It is believed that by allowing children to attend a public or private school of choice the quality of education along with the opportunity to achieve success will increase. Supporters further contend that the use of vouchers will infuse more funds into public schools with no increase in taxes. The rationale is that more families will place their children in neighborhood schools. In the inner-city schools where vouchers are already in use the evidence indicates the system is successful.

Opponents to the measure argue that "choice" will lead to the abandonment of our public schools with many parents choosing private over public education. They further contend that education tax dollars belong to the State and not to individual citizens. Thus, this money should not be spent at the discretion of parents.

The opponents further question the quality of education in private schools which are not regulated by the State. Schools in which teachers may not be credentialed and curriculum varies from school to school. They believe that the implementation of a school voucher system on a large scale will take away crucial dollars from schools which are already in desperate need of funding. They further caution that although the evidence of the use of school vouchers is promising, it is also limited. Institution of a statewide or nationwide voucher system would not be prudent since it is too early to tell if the voucher system will be successful on such a large scale.

Supporters of school vouchers argue that many private schools also have credentialed teachers and that the curriculum in place has proven successful, unlike the ever-changing curriculum found in public schools. The proponents of school vouchers cannot see changes for the better in the near future and many are tired of waiting for change to occur. Any further wait for the tides to turn will be at their children's expense. The institution of vouchers will give immediate relief and the long anticipated results parents have been waiting for.

Instead, school voucher opponents propose other alternatives to bring about quality education for all students. Alternatives such as cultivating competition within the public school system and allowing parents to choose public schools within their district or a public school in a neighboring district. They further suggest programs such as charter and/or magnet schools be implemented and/or expanded, stating that doing so will foster innovation within the public school system.

Both sides have valid points and concerns in this debate. Implementation of a voucher program appears to be a quick fix which will permit the immediate relief supporters have been waiting for. The cultivation of new programs as proposed by the opponents will take time and additional financial resources, but in the long run may benefit all students within the public school system.

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