Skip to comments.Paying the Wrong Piper
Posted on 09/09/2003 1:10:20 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob
School vouchers are now back on the front burner because the House of Representatives has just passed and sent to the Senate a $10 million program for the poorest students in the D.C. public school system. The plan gives them an opportunity to escape failing public schools and switch to any other school their parents believe will provide a better education. This is an idea whose time has come actually, it came a generation ago. But most Senate Democrats are gearing up to kill this opportunity for these children. Why are they doing that?
First, we look at the nature of the problem. The 2002 Report Card on American Education was published on behalf of the 2,700 state legislators who are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council. The Report includes the District of Columbia's results, treating it as a state. D.C. spent $8,277 per student per year, which is eighth highest in per student spending. It is tied for last in academic results, with Mississippi. (Those who want to obtain a copy of this Report should contact http://www.alec.org The new edition will be published by the end of October.)
What results do other states show? The national average in spending is $6,627 per student. The state with the best academic results is Wisconsin, which spends $7,886 per year. Since I'm from North Carolina, I add its results here. It spends $5,724 per year, not far from the national average; however, its academic results are 38th, or well below average.
Among the most vocal opponents of this plan on TV last weekend was Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting Congresswoman from D.C. She attacked the plan for "siphoning money away from the public schools." Let's consider this math problem, which I shall put up on the blackboard.
The average national spending is $6,627. The average voucher payment of the plans currently in existence around the nation is about $2,500. Here's the equation:
$6,627 minus $2,500 equals $4,127.
So, for every individual student whose parents choose to put him/her in a non-public school, the school system will have $4,127 left from NOT EDUCATING THAT STUDENT. What will such a public system do with that found money? Well, unless they steal it (which rarely happens) or give it back to the taxpayers (which never happens), they'll spend it on the students they still have.
In short, every voucher system, when parents take advantage of it, INCREASES the money per student that is available to the remaining students. So why are Mrs. Norton, and the Senate Democrats, attacking this plan?
Rep. Norton (a lawyer) is a well-educated woman. So are the men and women in the US Senate who may fight this plan. None of them are so stupid that they cannot do the math problem I presented above. The conclusion, therefore, is that they are dishonest. Why?
The heart of the remaining strength of the Democrat Party is the "edukashun" unions the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and their various state and local affiliates. These unions are the largest single source of volunteers for campaigns and funds to pay for advertising for hard-core Democrats in all levels of government.
What do the "edukashun" unions want? They want more pay for more teachers. What do they adamantly oppose? They oppose testing for students to find out what they know, and to determine that they actually have an education before they receive a diploma. They oppose testing for teachers to make sure the teachers actually know their subjects. And the "edukashun" unions go absolutely ballistic over competition for public schools charter schools, voucher plans, and especially home-schooling.
So year by year, the costs per pupil in America's public schools go up while the educational results go down. Not even the dumbing-down of some of the tests and much of the curricula has stopped this slide. Yet hard-core Democrats who are beholden to the "edukashun" unions defend this failed system, because the money and volunteers provided by those unions keep them in office.
Are Democrats unanimous in opposing the D.C. voucher system? No. In fact, it is a major crack in the facade of Democrat unity that now gives this plan a chance of success in the Senate. D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, a lifelong Democrat, has broken with the party line. He supports this voucher plan. If some Democrats in the Senate likewise wake up and smell the test results, the plan will pass.
D.C. will be the clearest test case of competition for the public schools. Study after study, other than a few that were paid for by the "edukashun" unions themselves, has shown that the average student achievements in various forms of schools rank in this order: Home-schooled students do the best. Next are private schools. Next are parochial schools. And dragging up the rear are the public schools.
Although I am not a Catholic, I am well aware of the excellent results especially in inner city Archdioceses, where more than half of the students are non-Catholics. They are mostly minority students whose parents care enough about their futures to scrimp and save to get them into those schools. The students reflect their parents' commitments, and are more dedicated to getting the education they need. But other than the commitments of the parents and the children, they are indistinguishable from the students languishing in the public schools down the street, and their parents.
In terms of cost-effective results, the parochial schools provide a better educational result than the public schools, and do so at about half the cost. Private schools show similar results some are very expensive, but most of them are reasonable in cost, comparable to the parochial schools. Senators and Representatives tend to send their children to such schools. As pointed out on the floor in Congress last week, no Member of the Senate nor any Member of the D.C. Council sends his or her children to any D.C. public school.
Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in a Supreme Court decision long ago that "the states [are] legislative laboratories." That is precisely what the "edukashun" unions and their hard-core Democrat allies most fear. D.C. is the ultimate laboratory for testing alternatives to public education as it currently exists. D.C. costs are high, and its results are the worst. There is phenomenal room for improvement.
Based on the proven results from other states, if the entire D.C. public school system were shut down tomorrow and all its students transferred to other schools, half the money could be saved and the educational results would go up.
Mind you, I'm not saying that all public schools are bad. In fact, many are solid schools. There is one school for all 12 grades in the small town where I live. The educational achievement rates, school by school, were released last week for the entire state. The Highlands School rated well above both the national average and the state average, and had the best results in all of Western Carolina. So I have no doubt about the quality education that my stepdaughter is receiving.
I add that all of my children and all of my grandchildren have also gone to good schools mostly public ones, but some to parochial schools. If I looked at the situation from a selfish standpoint I'd say that my children and grandchildren are doing fine. Why should I be concerned about other people's children? (That seems to be the approach that most of the Senate Democrats are taking.)
We must all be concerned when any significant number of students are still stuck in rotten public schools. Most students are capable of a good education. When they go to school for 12 years but don't receive that education, they are cheated. Their parents, who dutifully send them off to school, are cheated out of their expectations for their children.
The taxpayers who paid the costs, whether or not they have children in those schools, are cheated out of the education they paid others to provide. And lastly, when students don't get a competent education, they are less likely to obtain decent jobs and support themselves and their families, and more likely to fall into various forms of failure including drugs and crime.
When there are major failures anywhere in our public education systems, we all lose. We lose as communities, we lose as states, we lose as a nation. It's as simple as that.
One last note: the figures given above for costs of public education are operating costs only. The capital costs of building and maintaining the schools are NOT included. So the waste of money and the loss of opportunities for students, parents, taxpayers and citizens are even worse than indicated here.
If I were a Member of Congress, I would not only eagerly vote for a voucher plan like the one here, I'd argue until I was blue in the face using facts, figures and common sense -- to get all other Members of Congress to vote for it as well. It's that important.
- 30 -
About the Author: John Armor has spent 22 years in education at all levels, and has been a college professor. He has just formed an Exploratory Committee to run for Congress.
- 30 -
I think the facts contained will be of interest to FReepers, and that most will agree with the conclusions drawn.
Let me know what you think.
John / Billybob
Excellent essay, my FRiend.
You raise an interesting point: "Why should I be concerned about other people's children?"
The fact is we should all be (and, I hope are!) concerned about the children; they are the future of our country.
That is why we do what we do -- we are concerned about the future -- we want to leave this a better place than we found it. Until recently, past generations have insisted that future generations get a better education, which has been one of the great keys to America's success since our founding years.
We should make no mistake -- the LIEberal/Socialist/Marxists among us are intent on destroying America. That is why they and their useful idiot camp followers who have taken over the education establishment are doing what they are doing (I am convinced it is purposeful). If they can destroy America's education system, America will be rendered "just another third world country."
[The above thought usually takes me to "Taxman's History Lesson," and my theory of why the world hates the US and why certain US citizens are actively working to destroy America, but I'll save that essay for another thread]
At least the my conservative FRiends recognize the threat and are working to turn it around. I have no LIEberal/Socialist/Marxist Bastard FRiends (I do not hang out with scum -- my mother taught me a long time ago that a person is known by the company they keep), but I recognize evil when I see it.
What the NEA and the AFT have done (more correctly, what the American people have allowed the NEA and the AFT to do) to the US education system is criminal, and I, for one, am overjoyed that the American people are finally waking up to the facts and are doing something about it. I pray that we are not too late.
Press on, Billybob. We can win this battle for America's future, but it will not be a piece o' cake!
Excellent point! They are the future engineers, doctors,
lawyers, etc. that will continue to build and maintain our society and way of life. But they will only be able to create and fill these needed vocations if they are educated.
LOL! Congressman Billybob is right on the money with this essay. We have to take America Back, and recapturing control of the education system is of great importance.
After we replace the income tax with a National Retail Sales Tax and abolish the IRS, of course!
The NEA is the most powerful lobbying group in the nation..And they won't let vouchers go "string-less" to private schools...That ain't gonna happen.
Get the facts. Then let me know if you still oppose vouchers as a means to get students out of rotten public schools.
John / Billybob
The purpose of government funding of education is to educate the students. And--subject to the critique of the child's parents, not the government--the religion of the provider of that education is not the government's business.
The SCOTUS case in re Cleveland vouchers was most encouraging. SCOTUS saw it pretty much the way I do--the NEA came up empty.
"Vouchers are already going "stringless" to private and parochial schools. That's precisely why the NEA is up in arms. I think you need to consider the more than 50 years of government sscholarships paid for students at places like Notre Dame University. Those haven't changed Notre Dame. And vouchers are just another word for scholarships."
Yes...they are. And I'm aware of that. ( Milwaukee..is the best example I'm aware of in the K-12 level..) And yes, I understand it's been upheld in the USSC. Maybe my concern is unfounded at this early juncture...but IMO..once the NEA and the natural evolution of government have their way...the "hoops" to jump thru will be placed.
I differ with your statement that Notre Dame hasn't changed. It has. And I'd bet you your best lure in your tackle box..that it has. ( mines a blue and white Zara Spook..) It's founding misson statement is certainly not being followed by the great majority of students. Same with Yale, and many others. Are these changes specific to and/or caused by the accepting of federal/state monies...I strongly would point in that direction for starters. But I'm quite sure it's not the only causitive factor.
I do most certainly understand your implied point....in relation to the G.I. Bill/Pell grants..etc...etc...giving students who qualified for those monies "free" choice to go where they could.
"Get the facts. Then let me know if you still oppose vouchers as a means to get students out of rotten public schools."
Whoa thar fella....Ha!! I have some facts...not all the facts, but I got some of um. But some a dem thar facts r, as r uncle virgil used to yap...."slippery as boiled onions"....
I didn't say I opposed them....leastwise I don't think I said that. Did I? I said I support them for public schools....In other words...public school children should be able to go to the public school of their choice. And I suppose if you full-court pressed me...I'd say I'd support them for those private schools that would take the vouchers. Because of course those schools are free to do what they may do....as they are after all "private". And maybe that makes my wary stance...a moot one. And maybe I'm concerned about the elephant in the closet.....that's not really there. But experience tells me those laws of unintended consequences are valid laws, and that it's prudent to think that way. So I will "error" on that side, until I'm proven otherwise.
I'm ALL for getting kids out of rotten schools...I'm all for it. We have home schooled our's since 1988-89 so I certainly care enough to "do" something about it.
As always you make me think, and I'm better for it. Thanks & Best FRegards,
This is political warfare, and right now we are paying the salaries for the enemy army.
John / Billybob
"The main point is to cripple the NEA the AFT and all their state and local affiliated "edukashun" unions. Doing that will cripple the Democrats, who depend on that money stream. And that means getting money to move with the students to non-public, non-unionized schools. At the same time public schools will be closed, and public school teachers will be forced to seek other occupations."
My main point is that kids get the best possible education. It's a bonus...and a big one at that...when the NEA, AFT, and the Democrat party get's scuffed up in the process.
This is political warfare, and right now we are paying the salaries for the enemy army.
A new contract?
A caller on the Rush Limbaugh show recently had an inspired suggestion for Republicans: Since the "Contract with America" was such a political success back in 1994, why not a Contract with Black America during next year's election campaign?
The original Contract with America promised that specific legislation on specific issues would be introduced and brought to a vote in Congress -- and that promise was kept. There are a growing number of important issues today on which the Republican position has more to contribute to the advancement of blacks than the position of the Democrats on those same issues.
Education is the most obvious example. Poll after poll shows that most blacks want school vouchers. But Democrats -- black and white alike -- bitterly oppose anything that would offend the teachers' unions, who are among their biggest political backers, in terms of money, votes, and the ability to mobilize precincts on Election Day with manpower and phone banks.
The teachers' unions are the 800-pound gorilla of the Democratic Party. So there is no way the Democrats can match what the Republicans can offer black parents on vouchers. But someone has to bring out that fact -- and a Contract with Black America would be one of the best ways of publicizing and dramatizing this difference between the parties.
It is not just on the need for school choice, but also the need for school discipline and school safety, that the Republicans can offer what the Democrats cannot. The kinds of liberal judges appointed or approved by Democrats have created so many "rights" for disruptive students that a few classroom clowns and hoodlums are able in many cases to destroy any hope of educating the rest of the students.
In an increasingly education-based and high-tech economy, lack of a decent education is a lifetime sentence to the bottom of the pile. Liberal judges and the American Civil Liberties Union may feel good about themselves for making it hard to expel or suspend disruptive students in ghetto schools, but the price of their little glow of self-righteousness will be paid by millions of other people -- for as long as they live.
Another exercise in self-righteousness by another key Democratic Party constituency is environmental extremism. When they make it an ordeal, and sometimes virtually impossible, to build homes or offices, for fear that some toad or worm will be inconvenienced, that means sky-high housing prices that working people cannot afford and fewer businesses to provide jobs that they need.
Census data make it painfully clear that blacks are being forced out of many communities where affluent liberal Democrats have had unchallenged control for years and have let the green agenda run amok. In such communities on the northern California coast, the numbers of blacks have fallen absolutely, even while the population as a whole has grown.
Liberal Democrats do a lot of talking about a need for "affordable housing." The time is overdue for Republicans to call them on it, expose their hypocrisy, and get out the message that there is no free lunch -- because those who end up having to pay are often those who can least afford the green agenda.
On these and other issues like crime control and gun control, Republicans hold the high cards and they just need to know how to play them. For at least a quarter of a century, Republicans have done a lousy job of getting their message out to blacks.
One reason is that so-called moderate Republicans have taken the lead on racial issues and have tried to win the black vote by offering watered-down versions of what the Democrats offer. The ultimate farce in this approach was last year's attempt by Senator Trent Lott to save his job as Majority Leader by going on Black Entertainment TV and being urged by Jack Kemp to schmooze with left-wing blacks like Kweisi Mfume.
Trying to be imitation Democrats is a strategy that has completely failed the Republicans for decades now. The time is long overdue to put their own principles in a contract and begin the process of making a coherent appeal to black voters -- one that is believable, as well as one that offers some real hope of racial progress.