The School Voucher Debate

The pros and cons in the school voucher debate.

In this election year many of us will be seeing ballot measures asking for support of school vouchers. Presidential hopefuls and their running mates have already declared their positions on the issue of school vouchers nationwide. Republican Gov. George W. Bush not only supports school vouchers, but has implemented a voucher system in the State of Texas. However, in the Democratic camp, Vice President Al Gore opposes such a measure; while his running mate, Sen. Lieberman, supports a voucher system.

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 children.

Supporters of a voucher system assert that such a system will empower parents, providing choices to parents in deciding what schools their child may attend. This choice to parents comes in the form of a voucher in a predetermined amount ranging from $2,500 to $4,000. This amount is stated on the individual ballot measures voters will be deciding on. The voucher amount represents tax dollars already being used for education. Parents may present this voucher to either their neighborhood school or any school of their choice.

It is believed that by allowing children to attend a 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 funding into public schools with no increase in taxes. In the areas where vouchers have been used the evidence indicates the system has been 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 should not be spent at the discretion of parents. The issue of the separation of church and state along with the argument that state funds should not be given to religious institutions also comes into play.

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.

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.

There are no easy answers as to how to fix our nation's schools. This November voters have the opportunity, on State and Federal levels, to let their voices be heard. The election results of our local, State and Federal leaders, as well as, the pending ballot measures may well determine the course our nation takes in educating our children.

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