Education Built on the Backs of Our Children

A man walks into a doctor’s office.  He sits down nervously in a chair and waits for the doctor to join him.  While he waits, he looks around the room at the accolades that the doctor has received.  His eyes finally land on the prominently framed Harvard Medical School Diploma.  Still a little nervous, but feeling a little more at ease, he smiles as the doctor walks in the room.  The doctor sits down and promptly describes the procedure that the man is having.  Once the doctor is done he asks, “Do you have any questions?”

Nervously the man asks, “How many times have you performed this procedure?”

The doctor replies back simply, “None.”

The man shifts uncomfortable in his chair and then says, “Well I guess someone always has to be the first, but you have assisted in this procedure in the past, right?”

The doctor shakes his head no.

“Observed?”

“No, but I have studied for many years and I understand the concepts of the operation.”

The man rises from his chair and slowly begins to back out of the room.  As he leaves he says to the doctor, “You can have all the fine training and be first in your class and understand the concepts, but if you have never even held a scalpel in your hand what makes you so sure you know how to make the first cut?”

No Child Left Behind, Common Core, in theory were good ideas for education, but the practicality of them not so much.  Part of the problem being that the lawmakers who pushed for these initiatives may or may not have studied education.  And even if they did study education never even stepped foot into a classroom, but are now passing legislation on something they have never even practiced.  Anyone who knows me personally already knows how upset I was over the confirmation of Betsey DeVos.  I value education greatly, but unfortunately took it for granted most of my life.  It wasn’t until this past year in which I really realized how lucky I was for the education I was given.

quote-Malala-Yousafzai-let-us-remember-one-book-one-pen-252607Somehow in the last decade the education battle has become more of a political charade than about the core principles.  Instead of looking at the foundation and really delving into the issues, politicians have used it as leverage for political gain.  Betsey DeVos is the most recent example of this.   If we put our political stance and agendas aside and really looked into what the proposed changes in our education system would do to our children, I have a hard time believing that the majority would agree with it.

One of the things that I find so interesting about the proposed initiative by Betsey DeVos is the voucher system.  Where in theory it sounds like a really great idea, I also think in theory having chocolate three times a day is a good idea until I get a stomach ache.  Here’s one of the things I cannot wrap my brain around.  We have a standard for education right now, a base line if you will, public schools.  Every child in the 50 states has the right to an education from Kindergarten (depending on your state it isn’t an actual requirement) or first grade through 12th grade.  Anything above and beyond that is the sole responsibility of the parent.  For example, both my children did preschool.  Where it isn’t necessary and its superfluous to the requirements needed to start school, I enrolled my children.  No one else helped foot the bill for it.   It was my decision to do it and I paid for it.  Whereas I think private education is a fine avenue if that is your choice, it shouldn’t be paid on the back of the taxpayer’s dollar if you decide to do that.  I understand that private education offers many times valuable structure and morals that many parents feel is lacking the public school system, but again that is above the standard that has been set and it shouldn’t be paid by the general public.

If you look at two districts that already have the voucher system in place, Milwaukee and Cleveland it is indisputable that the vouchers end up costing taxpayers more – for administration and to pay the costs of students not formerly served in public schools.

Milwaukee

By 1998-99, about 6,000 Milwaukee students received vouchers worth about $5,000 each for a total cost of about $29 million. This created a net loss of $22 million to the public schools. (“Tax Funding for Private School Alternatives: The Financial Impact on Milwaukee Public Schools and Taxpayers,” Institute for Wisconsin’s Future, 1998)

Cleveland

For 2000-02, 3,900 Cleveland students received vouchers worth about $2,250 each at a cost of about $9 million. Additional transportation and administrative costs bring the total up to more than $10 million

Green Bay Public Schools flirted with the idea of adopting a voucher system and through their analysis of the fiscal effect of private school voucher expansion they found the following figures to be true: If a voucher program came to GBAPS with 200 new voucher students, district taxpayers would pay an additional $1,231,080 in property taxes. With 500 voucher students, district taxpayers would pay an additional $3,131,972 in property taxes. As the number of private school voucher students increases, so will the additional property taxes for GBAPS taxpayers. Private school voucher expansion means property taxes will rise.

I find it interesting that a lot of the constituents who are proponents of the voucher system, are also the same people who want to cut down on other public services.  For example, without getting into a debate about Welfare, many of the voucher proponents seek to restrict and limit social welfare spending.  I have to agree, I do not want the benefits of Welfare to go to those who aren’t truly in need of it or are abusing it.  However, why are we so quick to crack the whip on that, but want to exceed the spending on education for those who want to send their children to private school?  If that isn’t excessive spending I do not know what is.

For those of you who don’t know exactly what the bill spells out, please see below.  This has been taken verbatim from Congress.gov

“Choices in Education Act of 2017

This bill repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limits the authority of the Department of Education (ED) such that ED is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states.

The bill establishes an education voucher program, through which each state shall distribute block grant funds among local educational agencies (LEAs) based on the number of eligible children within each LEA’s geographical area. From these amounts, each LEA shall: (1) distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home-school their child, and (2) do so in a manner that ensures that such payments will be used for appropriate educational expenses.

To be eligible to receive a block grant, a state must: (1) comply with education voucher program requirements, and (2) make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the state or to home-school their child.

No Hungry Kids Act

The bill repeals a specified rule that established certain nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs. (In general, the rule requires schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in school meals; and meet children’s nutritional needs within their caloric requirements.)”

The No Hungry Kids Act suffers the price.  Where it is true that the bill does not repeal the no free lunch for kids who qualify, it does significantly impact the quality of the food that all of our kids would be getting if they bought or received a free lunch.  I have heard people comment, “that beggars can’t be choosers,” however that apathetic remark just shows how poorly we are looking at the bigger picture.  Where I might be able to provide quality meals for my family, others are just scraping by.  Now the one meal that they could count on that was good for their children might no longer be viable.

Henry Steele CommagerI just finished reading, “I am Malala.”  For those of you who don’t know who she is, she is a remarkable young woman who is mainly known for her human rights advocacy for education and for women in her native Swat Valley in Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. October 9, 2012 Malala was injured after a Taliban gunman attempted to murder her.  Malala at 17 years old became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.  Where I am in no means comparing our fight for better education with the plight that Malala and many other women around the world go through each day just to go to school, I feel it is important to remember that without change, progress can never be made.  Growth does not happen without change.

 

“School Vouchers”, http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/school-choice-vouchers.aspx, March 11, 2017.

Pons, Michael, “School Vouchers: The Emerging Track Record” http://www.nea.org/home/16970.htm, March 11, 2017.

 

 

 

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