By Tony Farkas
The current discussions regarding school vouchers make me wonder if the focus is on quality education for children.
Mostly, at least in what I’ve heard, it’s been about money, with a side trip into questioning accountability of private schools to the state godfathers.
Administrators in smaller schools rightly feel that allowing funds to be moved would affect their ability to provide education, while other education professionals point out that private schools aren’t bound by state standards.
Proponents of school choice say it will allow for greater parental involvement, as well as forcing schools in general to improve in order to maintain current enrollment.
Teachers, school administrators and board members all have the best of intentions when it comes to education. For me, that was never a concern. My interest here is about the constant interference from the powers that be.
That, and actually educating students, since any plan that is supposed to be helping students needs to actually improve education outcomes.
Many of these arguments instead focus on money, and even the loss of control by the government, especially the federal government.
So here’s how I think things will go. The State Senate has passed a measure during last week’s special session, which now is waiting on the House to convene for its deliberations. This being a pet project of Gov. Abbott, more than likely it will end up on his desk. From there, more than likely, it will end up in a series of court battles, and the issue will become stagnant and nothing will have been accomplished.
That’s just on the side of law. Funding has been deemed the biggest problem in education, but has increasing funding done anything? Is there actually an uptick in proficiency? Certainly some districts have improved greatly, but this isn’t the norm. If funding fully was the answer, then improvement would be pretty uniform.
As I’ve pointed out before, there are numerous and continuous mandates from state and local governments requiring funds to be diverted to other items, such as turning school campuses into armed encampments. (I’m not minimizing horrific school shootings, and please don’t think that. I have deep concerns because I, too, have children in school.)
Imagine if the funds required to completely surround campuses with 8-foot fencing were actually used for instruction.
I also feel there needs to be more accountability, but not on the part of the schools but on the students. A joke running around pointed out that decades ago, parents demanded of children the reason for poor grades; nowadays, parents demand answers from teachers.
That same accountability needs to be spread to parents; if one of the intentions of vouchers is to increase parental involvement, then it seems that already has been deemed a problem. Will moving money around from one school to another make a difference?
There obviously are no easy answers, but I cannot believe that adding more government oversight and meddling will solve the problems, since nothing the government does has truly been successful. Instead of vouchers, how about letting the people in the community chart their own course?