Indiana school choice a boon for parochial schools

posted at 8:45 am on August 30, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Over the weekend, I wrote about the ugly scene at Messmer Preparatory Catholic School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when union thugs showed up to protest Governor Scott Walker’s visit to the “choice school,” one that allows parents to opt out of the public school system.  The unions fear choice schools not because they don’t educate children — 85% of Messmer students go on to college — but because they eat into the union’s control over schools and children.  The same is true in Indiana, where a newly-broadened voucher program has thousands of children heading to private schools, and administrators begging parents not to leave (via Instapundit):

Weeks after Indiana began the nation’s broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Catholic institutions that were only recently on the brink of closing for lack of pupils.

It’s a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools. Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.

In at least one district, public school principals have been pleading with parents not to move their children.

Voucher program opponents plan to sue Indiana.  Do they claim that children are getting substandard education through this voucher plan?  No, they’re angry that parents can use government vouchers to pay for education at parochial schools:

“The bottom line from our perspective is, when you cut through all the chaff, nobody can deny that public money is going to be taken from public schools, and they’re going to end up in private, mostly religious schools,” said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. …

Nearly 70 percent of the vouchers approved statewide are for students opting to attend Catholic schools, according to figures provided to The Associated Press by the five dioceses in Indiana. The majority are in the urban areas of Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Gary, where many public schools have long struggled.

Let’s not forget that the voucher program returns money to parents whose children aren’t costing the state anything for their education.  If it’s like most voucher programs, it doesn’t even return  the full tax bite for each family, which means those families are funding both systems.  By putting their children into private schools, these parents are almost certainly spending more money on education than those in the public system.

Note, though, that it’s not an atheist activist group threatening to file suit, or some non-profit alleging incompetence in the delivery of education.  It’s the teachers union that wants to file suit.  Why?  Because as students leave, public-school teacher positions will get eliminated.  Of course, an influx of students into private schools will mean more jobs for teachers in the private market, but the union doesn’t control the employers in that sector like they do in the public-school system.  Teachers have to demonstrate competence and effectiveness longer than just achieving tenure.

The real problem for the ISTA isn’t that the money goes to parochial schools; it’s that they’re not getting the money themselves.  They want these children locked into places where “many public schools have long struggled” to educate properly in order to protect their own cash flow.  They can’t compete with the private market, and so they want to delegitimize it by casting long-established parochial schools as some kind of threat to the American public.  They’re not worried about the children; they are only worried about themselves, which is one good reason to support Indiana’s voucher program.

As far as their lawsuit is concerned, well, best of luck to them in winning that argument.  If government subsidies are to have a test for religion, then will Medicare and Medicaid stop reimbursing Catholic hospitals for services performed for poor and elderly patients?

Update: From the comments, I’m reminded of Zelman v Simmons-Harris, a 2002 case decided by the Supreme Court that upheld vouchers for parochial schools as long as the program met a five-point test:

  • the program must have a valid secular purpose,
  • aid must go to parents and not to the schools,
  • a broad class of beneficiaries must be covered,
  • the program must be neutral with respect to religion, and
  • there must be adequate nonreligious options.

I suspect that ISTA will argue that the Indiana program fails on the last criterion by claiming that there aren’t enough non-parochial private schools to meet the test.  I also suspect that (a) a court won’t agree on that point, and (b) the sudden demand for private schools in Indiana will shortly make that a moot argument anyway.

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The unions want the money to use to contribute to Dem politicians who will continue to protect the unions so the unions get the money to contribute….

Wethal on August 30, 2011 at 8:47 AM


… public school principals have been pleading with parents not to move their children.

“How are we supposed to brainwash your kids if you take them out of our indoctrination centers???”

Tony737 on August 30, 2011 at 8:48 AM

As far as their lawsuit is concerned, well, best of luck to them in winning that argument. If government subsidies are to have a test for religion, then will Medicare and Medicaid stop reimbursing Catholic hospitals for services performed for poor and elderly patients?

Since students have been using federal loans (whatever the National Defense Loan program is now called), federally guaranteed loans and work-study loans in religiously-affiliated colleges and universities for decades, it will be interesting to see how they distinguish public schools.

That elementary and secondary education (to age 16 or so) is mandatory won’t wash, because students are not required to attend public schools. See Pierce v. Society of Sisters.

As long as the parents are educating the children according to standards, how and where they do it, even on line, isn’t the state’s business.

Wethal on August 30, 2011 at 8:51 AM

In at least one district, public school principals have been pleading with parents not to move their children.

Pleading does not include promising to educate…

right2bright on August 30, 2011 at 8:52 AM

Even though I am a supporter of charter schools and voucher programs, I do think something needs to be done to address the issue of special needs children who remain in the public schools because most private schools can’t/won’t take them.

katiejane on August 30, 2011 at 8:52 AM

Note, though, that it’s not an atheist activist group threatening to file suit,

Here in Harrisburg, PA we have atheist groups conterprotest people who want a voucher program.

DethMetalCookieMonst on August 30, 2011 at 8:52 AM

As residents of one of the urban areas cited, it was a real financial burden to send our daughter to Christian school (K to 1st) and Catholic schools (2nd through 12th). We still suffer financially for it three years after she graduated. Was it worth it? Yes…do it again in a heartbeat. Why? Do you really have to ask?

Extrafishy on August 30, 2011 at 8:53 AM

Even though I am a supporter of charter schools and voucher programs, I do think something needs to be done to address the issue of special needs children who remain in the public schools because most private schools can’t/won’t take them.

katiejane on August 30, 2011 at 8:52 AM

No doubt, and that system is still there, they can still receive the education they deserve…no one wants to take that away (no one that is logical).
This will allow more money, and more care for those special needs children.

right2bright on August 30, 2011 at 8:54 AM

My wife and I homeschooled our two youngest (we have six children).
Once when we felt it necessary to remove one of our other children from an abusive teachers class, the principle tried to make it as hard on us as possible.

I just looked at my wife and said; “We homeschool the youngest two, why not one more?”

All of a sudden the principle saw several thousand dollars walking out the door. She instantly started treating us like customers. All the unreasonable demands, games, and dirty tricks went out the window.

Today’s so called educators are out to control you.
Alternatives that end their monopoly give us the ability to control the school.

Unions hate school choice because they are control freaks and school choice eats into their Union Revenue.

The Rock on August 30, 2011 at 8:55 AM


They can’t compete with the private market …

That says it all right there.

We’re sending our kids to a Christian academy, even if we can hardly afford it. We’ll find a way to pay for it.

Every state should have a voucher system ’cause your taxes go to the public school anyway.

Tony737 on August 30, 2011 at 8:55 AM

Note, though, that it’s not an atheist activist group threatening to file suit, or some non-profit alleging incompetence in the delivery of education. It’s the teachers union that wants to file suit.

Good try to pander…
Atheists groups are always behind the separation of church and state. They will file a friend of court, or they will use the ACLU to do their bidding.

right2bright on August 30, 2011 at 8:56 AM

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002):

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said the school voucher program does not constitute the establishment of religion. The much-anticipated ruling on the pilot project involving inner-city Cleveland schools came on the final day of the Supreme Court term, which began in October.

The ruling reversed an appeals court decision, which struck down the program because nearly all the families receiving the tax-supported state tuition scholarships attend Catholic schools in Cleveland.

But the Supreme Court majority said the parents have a sufficient range of choices among secular and religious schools that Ohio’s voucher plan does not violate the First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of religion.

“We believe the program challenged here is a program of true private choice,” wrote Chief Justice William Rehnquist. “The Ohio program is neutral in all respects toward religion. It is part of a general and multifaceted undertaking by the State of Ohio to provide educational opportunities to the children of a failed school district.”

Kennedy was in the majority, by the way.

That the majority of parents choose a Catholic school is apparently irrelevant. They make their choice among the options and take their voucher there. Free market economics.

Wethal on August 30, 2011 at 8:58 AM

All of a sudden the principle saw several thousand dollars walking out the door. She instantly started treating us like customers. – Rock

Amazing, isn’t it? These anti-capitalists love money!

Home-school and private school … they are the answer to the education problems we have in this country.

Tony737 on August 30, 2011 at 8:59 AM

… it was a real financial burden to send our daughter to Christian school … – Fishy

You’re a good parent and your daughter’s future will prove it.

Tony737 on August 30, 2011 at 9:02 AM

Rock, please tell me that your misspelling of “principal” is not indicative of your home schooling skills!

radjah shelduck on August 30, 2011 at 9:03 AM

CATCH 22 for Private schools…..

accept vouchers from the parents but then does that let the STATE get their foot in the door?

How long before the States/Feds/Locals start getting to “recommend” changes?

How long before the private schools are forced to adopt Nutrition guidelines, etc.

But really, that’s only an issue if you think the Gov wants to project it’s diety status in our natural world……into every facet of our lives.

PappyD61 on August 30, 2011 at 9:03 AM

In the uncensored word of Joycelyn Elders before she was fired for daring to say the truth out loud: We wants your children before you teach them not to mastubate…(or some close facimile)

How else are we going to teach them that rocks have rights?

Don L on August 30, 2011 at 9:03 AM

At the end of the day – a union controlled entity has no rights, when compared to the good of the people and taxpayers.

WI, FL, Ohio, Mich, Indiana, NJ, etc. have fought these battles over the past 2+ years – and not only won, but turned back 50+ years of madness.

Because a union or its lackey’s have never been about results, they are about control.

My HS over 20 years ago had an austerity year due to the taxpayers refusing to allow a tax hike and the budget failed to pass. Guess what – our sports teams flourished, club level groups performed very well, kids got good grades, graduated and went on to college(103 out of 300 were honors my senior year). It actually galvanized our school, students, parents, etc – while no one noticed the teachers didnt get their raises. Amazingly, the next year – tax hikes were stripped out budget passed immediately.

Call their bluff and act accordingly. The have no power – they have no rights.

Odie1941 on August 30, 2011 at 9:04 AM

May Horace Mann burn in hell.

fossten on August 30, 2011 at 9:05 AM

This will allow more money, and more care for those special needs children.

right2bright on August 30, 2011 at 8:54 AM

Not necessarily. There are certain fixed overhead expenses that are “costed” to the total number of kids. So if you have fewer students to pay a share, the district still has to cover those expenses – they won’t get more funds for it.

katiejane on August 30, 2011 at 9:05 AM

Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.

Of course! The state can’t allow the citizens to send their children to schools which might better reflect their own belief system.

…that is what separation of church and state means…right?

BlueCollarAstronaut on August 30, 2011 at 9:08 AM

Isn’t “overcrowding” one of their biggest complaints?

You’d think this would be seen as a win-win for everybody.

Tony737 on August 30, 2011 at 9:08 AM

In modern America unions are one of the most despicable and corrupt organizations around.

gwelf on August 30, 2011 at 9:10 AM

They want these children locked into places where “many public schools have long struggled” to educate properly in order to protect their own cash flow. They can’t compete with the private market, and so they want to delegitimize it by casting long-established parochial schools as some kind of threat to the American public.

Public schools are a life support system for teacher unions. Education, such as it is, is incidental.

petefrt on August 30, 2011 at 9:14 AM

Does this not strike you as assinine? The local governments take money away from parents in the form of real estate taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes to pay in part for the government “service” of education. The government then gives some of that money back to parents to pay for education. Why not lower taxes and let parents pay directly for the service…..cut out the middle man who takes a generous “handling fee”?

olesparkie on August 30, 2011 at 9:17 AM

Competition is good…unless you’re in a union.

SouthernGent on August 30, 2011 at 9:17 AM

I assume this law has an maximum income threshold requirement to qualify. It should be removed. Vouchers for everyone!

WashJeff on August 30, 2011 at 9:26 AM

Once again… Michelle Rhee on Line 2.

Odie1941 on August 30, 2011 at 9:27 AM

We are extremely fortunate to have our son in a private Christian school and we not only have foreign exchange students but disabled students as well. My son has a friend with cerebal palsy in a motorized wheelchair and another friend with a speech issue. There are several schools in the Atlanta area geared towards students with behavioral problems or learning disabilities. These students would be better served at a private school with a voucher program. If the need is there private business will rise to fill the void. Public schools will be forced to improve to compete. The component that is the most difficult to address is poor parenting.

ldbgcoleman on August 30, 2011 at 9:27 AM

# he program must be neutral with respect to religion, and
# there must be adequate nonreligious options.

..

So it’s not choice-choice.

Ok.

Gov’t takes your money, secularizes it and gives it back.

Thanks.

artist on August 30, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Forget the religious aspect of parochial schools for a second (and it’s a great feature, IMHO)…the education levels are FAR superior to public system generally speaking. And the Indy Public Schools for the most part are a disaster. The private, mainly parochial schools are really good but REALLY expensive.

search4truth on August 30, 2011 at 9:32 AM

olesparkie on August 30, 2011 at 9:17 AM

Indeed. I was in a discussion with a friend who railed against vouchers that provided funds for parents to send their kids to private schools when those parents should be paying for that themselves. I asked him about the subsidy provided for the rich through public schools?

He was confused and I pointed out that I, as a well-to-parent, could send my 6 kids to a public school and receive a financial benefit far out-weighing my contribution through property taxes. Why in the world did we come up with a system in which children of well-to-do parents can receive a free public education if they so choose? Isn’t a better system one in which everyone pays their own way with subsidies provided for low-income parents to bridge the funding gap?

Wouldn’t the competition between the schools improve the overall quality of education. And wouldn’t it improve the compensation giving to teachers as schools fight to hire and retain the best teachers? And wouldn’t teachers work hard to improve their performance in order to please the ultimate consumer: the parents?

PackerBronco on August 30, 2011 at 9:33 AM

I can only hope NJ takes the next step and institutes a strong voucher program. Christie’s taken a good first step but the NJEA is still the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Remember the AC teachers convention: http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/james-okeefe-goes-after-njea-with-video-of-teachers-union-gone-wild
Not much disciplinary action came out of it, if I recall correctly.

smfic on August 30, 2011 at 9:35 AM

As Kelso from ‘That 70′s Show’ would say …… *BURN!!!!* I love when free market alternatives give the mighty freedom finger to the progressives.

StompUDead on August 30, 2011 at 9:36 AM

Even though I am a supporter of charter schools and voucher programs, I do think something needs to be done to address the issue of special needs children who remain in the public schools because most private schools can’t/won’t take them.

katiejane on August 30, 2011 at 8:52 AM

Well, of course. No one is arguing for throwing those kids on the curb and leaving them to rot.

PackerBronco on August 30, 2011 at 9:37 AM

They don’t give a riiiip about students

forest on August 30, 2011 at 9:38 AM

Unions have long known that they can only survive when the companies who’s labor market they have monopolized have in turn monopolized the market for their product. The New Deal was a deal by which corporations were given exemptions from anti-trust laws if they were union friendly.

Count to 10 on August 30, 2011 at 9:45 AM

AWESOME!!!

I just qualified to send my son to a private school!!!!!!

YAAAY

FU teachers union……..

JihadKiller1s1k on August 30, 2011 at 9:46 AM

Score a big win for Mitch Daniels!

MJBrutus on August 30, 2011 at 9:48 AM

My Man Mitch

JihadKiller1s1k on August 30, 2011 at 9:51 AM

… public school principals have been pleading with parents not to move their children.

“How are we supposed to brainwash your kids if you take them out of our indoctrination centers???”

Tony737 on August 30, 2011 at 8:48 AM

Wouldn’t it be nice to know this could be the beginning of the total breakdown of a national institution that has been failing miserably for decades. Watch for the liberal politicians to fight this tooth and nail, as a major campaign cash cow begins to vanish.

This dissolution of the liberal indoctrination will be the icing on the cake.

Rovin on August 30, 2011 at 10:02 AM

PackerBronco on August 30, 2011 at 9:33 AM

I think the best argument for vouchers is that levels, relative to income, the access to opportunity. We have a system of school choice in ever state. The more income\wealth you have, the more choice in schools you have.

When I chose my home of seven years, one of the top reasons for my choice was the school system. Not everyone can afford where I live; therefore, those that cannot afford it cannot go to my school system. And there are areas around Chicago that I cannot afford either, therefore, my kids cannot go to those schools.

Is a school choice system based on income/wealth fair? Or is there a better system of choice?

WashJeff on August 30, 2011 at 10:05 AM

Does this not strike you as assinine? The local governments take money away from parents in the form of real estate taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes to pay in part for the government “service” of education. The government then gives some of that money back to parents to pay for education. Why not lower taxes and let parents pay directly for the service…..cut out the middle man who takes a generous “handling fee”?
olesparkie on August 30, 2011 at 9:17 AM

Because then there would be a lot of parents who would not pay to educate their children, and we would have a large underclass of illiterates in a generation.

Count to 10 on August 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Directing public education funds to churches…the American way!

ernesto on August 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

I just pray they don’t use this as an excuse to go in and start telling the Church how and what they can teach, like they’ve done in Ontario and Britain.

pannw on August 30, 2011 at 10:08 AM

Also, vouchers could turn parents into conservative voters. While unions and “black leaders” rail against school choice, the parents may need to vote for a different interest.

Harpoon on August 30, 2011 at 10:08 AM

The bottom line from our perspective is, when you cut through all the chaff, nobody can deny that public money is going to be taken from public schools, and they’re going to end up in private, mostly religious schools

Shouldn’t that tell us something? Like, just maybe, most people don’t think God should have been taken out of the classroom in the first place and that teachers should be able to discipline students? And that if those students continue to misbehave they should be able to remove them from that school? And and and…

Bob's Kid on August 30, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Directing public education funds to churches…the American way!

ernesto on August 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Directing public funds to unions…the American way!

WashJeff on August 30, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Even though Catholicism is superstitious nonsense it must be said that in their schools non Catholics may enrol and opt out of the religious propaganda. They do teach science in the science classes and avoid vacuous idiocies such as creationism and ‘intelligent design.’ The lack of teacher’s unions gives them more liberty to hire and retain (or not) teachers based of their performance.

The single best thing that could happen to public education would be to pass a national right to work law to eliminate the monopoly of the teacher’s unions.

Annar on August 30, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Directing public education funds to churches…the American way!

ernesto on August 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

What makes them public education funds?

a capella on August 30, 2011 at 10:23 AM

I’m waiting for the argument “STOP! It’s for the children!”

GarandFan on August 30, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Directing public education funds to churches…the American way!

ernesto on August 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

The funds are directed towards the parents and the parents have the freedom to select the school of their choice. Freedom … the American way!

PackerBronco on August 30, 2011 at 10:25 AM

Directing public education funds to churches…the American way!
ernesto on August 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Give private industry motivation to get into the teaching business, and the religious ones will fade into the background.

Count to 10 on August 30, 2011 at 10:25 AM

I can see one unintended consequence, though it’s minor compared to the benefits: to meet the court’s test, this would have to allow voucher for Islamic madrassas, too.

irishspy on August 30, 2011 at 10:29 AM

The single best thing that could happen to public education would be to pass a national right to work law to eliminate the monopoly of the teacher’s unions.
Annar on August 30, 2011 at 10:22 AM

The same could be said for pretty much any industry.

Count to 10 on August 30, 2011 at 10:31 AM

Because then there would be a lot of parents who would not pay to educate their children, and we would have a large underclass of illiterates in a generation.
Count to 10 on August 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

We have that already under the current system.

tommyboy on August 30, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Annar on August 30, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Awww…nice of Ed to give you another opportunity to throw in your anti-Catholic bigotry, wasn’t it?

What a pathetic jerk you are.

pannw on August 30, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Directing public education funds to churches…the American way!
ernesto on August 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Where are any funds going to Churches? You are quite wrong there. The schools and churches are distinct entities.

tommyboy on August 30, 2011 at 10:33 AM

I can see one unintended consequence, though it’s minor compared to the benefits: to meet the court’s test, this would have to allow voucher for Islamic madrassas, too.
irishspy on August 30, 2011 at 10:29 AM

True, but that might ultimately have the effect of moderating said madrassas. Particularly if there are transparency requirements associated with it.

Count to 10 on August 30, 2011 at 10:34 AM

Give private industry motivation to get into the teaching business, and the religious ones will fade into the background.

Count to 10 on August 30, 2011 at 10:25 AM

Especially if voucher states remove the income test to qualify for vouchers.

I find that many people, especially statists, cannot think of what a market would look like when people have more funds available for that market. Very static in their thinking.

WashJeff on August 30, 2011 at 10:35 AM

Directing public education funds to churches…the American way!
ernesto on August 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Quite American. I would note that virtually every Ivy League University started out as a Protestant seminary. Further, religious instruction was part of virtually every single public school until the 1920′s. It’s as American as apple pie.

tommyboy on August 30, 2011 at 10:36 AM

We have that already under the current system.
tommyboy on August 30, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Granted, but it could be much bigger.

Count to 10 on August 30, 2011 at 10:37 AM

I would suppose that one day, when voucher systems are thankfully ubiquitous (those of us in states like Illinois will probably be the last to suffer the idiocy of the status quo), one unfortunate battle scar of unions’ probably scorched-earth strategy will be onerous regulatory burdens on private schools. As the advantage shifts to the public — not public schools but citizens, the actual public – union backers will work feverishly to fetter private schools.

They’ve done it with public schools where they dominate; if they don’t even care about the kids in their own domain of control, why would they care about collateral damage in an ideological war against freedom.

On the whole “religious” dispute: opposing choice on grounds of worry about public moneys going to religious institutions (a dead issue, thanks to the courts) has an interesting side-effect: it’s telling secular parents that they aren’t entitled to choose where their kids go to school; they must sacrifice what would seem like an obvious and quintessential American liberty for the higher purpose of thwarting sectarian parents’ exercise of that same liberty. “You secularists must be a slave of the system in order to prevent the religious folk from being free of it. We mustn’t create a fair system where you, like everyone else, benefits — because you’re obliged to serve our purpose of seeing to it that religious people remain denied substantive economic freedoms to place their kids outside the system in their parochial schools.”

These are the kinds of creeps we’re up against.

Liberals are all for choice when it’s killing unborn children. Once their born, they turn against parental choice regarding education.

Amazing that people who loathe “fat cats” are happy — just happy, mind you — to deny economic empowerment to parents regarding their children’s education, while the fat cats have no problem populating the private schools.

A wildly liberal — genuinely communist, actually — colleague is angry that Catholic schools manage to send so many kids to college with such relatively low cost per pupil. He especially hates that teachers in such schools are willing to work for wages and benefits much lower than their public school counterparts. I’m not exaggerating; he’s angry and hateful about this. Why? Because it’s a good argument for private education that he can’t counter. Because it’s a truth that actually weighs in against his world view.

Reason, truth, justice, and liberty are not on the side of the public school unions and their ilk.

Oh, one last thing. I work for a company that educates thousands of special ed. students that public districts outsource to the private sector. We take no tuition — we are paid by public school districts to educate difficult children. And there are thousands of private, non-profit “alternative ed” schools like ours throughout the 50 states, who are paid by the districts to do what they can’t do (often for good reasons). But the point would be this: when unions claim that vouchers would leave all the toughest students at the public schools, (a) so what? My company has 100% tough students. Big deal. Educate them as best you can — for a change. And (b), you’re outsourcing the toughest kids now, which proves there IS a market for even the toughest students in the private sector. So you’re disingenuous liars when you make that a bogeyman.

I would spend the next 20 years of my life fighting these fools in all 50 states if I were free to do so. I’m sacrificing to put my third child through a superb private school while paying taxes to support other families’ public education. I would far prefer, if I had to pay for other families’ kids going to school, that it would be a school of their parents’ choice.

rasqual on August 30, 2011 at 10:39 AM

Granted, but it could be much bigger.
Count to 10 on August 30, 2011 at 10:37 AM

I don’t know that it would be. Forcing kids to bad schools that don’t what to be there doesn’t help educate them and it just makes things worse for the kids that do want to be there.

tommyboy on August 30, 2011 at 10:43 AM

I find that many people, especially statists, cannot think of what a market would look like when people have more funds available for that market. Very static in their thinking.
WashJeff on August 30, 2011 at 10:35 AM

That is a good point. I’m not sure if that is truly a dividing line between left and right, or if it just a matter of where the focus is. Democrats tend to imagine that the state of thing is static, and want to tweak the organizational principles to shift wealth, while Repiblicans tend to want to keep the organizational principles constant and let the overall state adjust to conditions.

Count to 10 on August 30, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.

There is no such thing.

slickwillie2001 on August 30, 2011 at 10:51 AM

“Directing public education funds to churches…the American way!”

Ernesto seems oblivious to the astonishing amount of public moneys directed to churches (and other organizations, secular as well as sectarian) to perform a vast number of community services. If his concern is genuine, he’s really, really late to the party and raising an issue that’s much larger than he seems to imagine.

Ernesto is probably “pro-labor,” but he’d want people staffing ESL programs in a neighborhood church to pay for expensive curriculum out of their own pockets. They’re already providing the building and staffing the program without reimbursement in most cases.

How about if Ernesto holds government agencies and public schools to the same standard? “You folks can volunteer; the government will pay for the books and software.”

Now that’d be fair. But Ernesto isn’t really interested in fairness or justice now, is he?

rasqual on August 30, 2011 at 10:51 AM

I hope it spreads like wild fire. Public education in this country is a joke. Not because there are not good teachers and children willing to learn, but because there is no originality or individuality. My sister and I are seven years apart. Seven years ago I had to read The Adentures of Huckleberry Finn and you know what? She had to read it too. Is there ever any change or real direction? No. Just pushing an agenda on to many students who know little unless their parents have the resources to take them out. I applaud parents who challenge the current system. I only wish parents would also realize that the current public college system is broke as well. Give these kids choices and let them think for themsleves. Stop holding their hands and watch them grow more independent.

Oh, wait, that’s what the unions fear.

RDE2010 on August 30, 2011 at 11:15 AM

Isn’t “overcrowding” one of their biggest complaints?

You’d think this would be seen as a win-win for everybody.

Tony737 on August 30, 2011 at 9:08 AM

The “overcrowding” complaint is not really a complaint that there are too many kids per classroom, it is another poll tested ploy to prod tax payers into paying more in taxes so that the schools can receive more money.

The school receives a set amount of money for each student that is present on “count” day whether that student finishes the school year there or not.

Also, just because a school gets a set amount of money, it doesn’t mean they spend those funds on a particular student. One of the biggest scams of the public school system is the “per pupil” amount quoted when discussing school funding.

They get a certain amount per pupil, but they can then spend the money anywhere. When one gets into the real nuts and bolts of school funds, one finds that very little actually makes it into the classroom where the kids are found.

Jvette on August 30, 2011 at 11:15 AM

Home-school and private school … they are the answer to the education problems we have in this country.

Tony737 on August 30, 2011 at 8:59 AM

Some people think usuing iPads will solve the education problem. Any takers on iSchools?

RDE2010 on August 30, 2011 at 11:25 AM

Because then there would be a lot of parents who would not pay to educate their children, and we would have a large underclass of illiterates in a generation. now
Count to 10 on August 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

We have that already under the current system.

tommyboy on August 30, 2011 at 10:32 AM

If you doubt this, check out the adult literacy rate of Detroit.

IowaWoman on August 30, 2011 at 11:29 AM

PackerBronco on August 30, 2011 at 9:33 AM
I think the best argument for vouchers is that levels, relative to income, the access to opportunity. We have a system of school choice in ever state. The more income\wealth you have, the more choice in schools you have.
When I chose my home of seven years, one of the top reasons for my choice was the school system. Not everyone can afford where I live; therefore, those that cannot afford it cannot go to my school system. And there are areas around Chicago that I cannot afford either, therefore, my kids cannot go to those schools.
Is a school choice system based on income/wealth fair? Or is there a better system of choice?
WashJeff on August 30, 2011 at 10:05 AM

Here in Los Angeles this doesn’t work because of busing. Kids are brought in by bus and essentially they ruin the schools. Instead of being grateful to attend a better school they arrive tired from getting on a bus at 5:00am, driving through heavy congestion and seeing how those who are better off live. Then they get angry or depressed, they act up, vandalize and rob from the other kids. The busing should stop and the money saved should be put in the neighborhood school. Everyone would be much happier.

CCRWM on August 30, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Yeah, CCRWM, it’s interesting that public schools are so unsuccessful in educating well that people choose where they live based on which public schools are nearby.

“Which proves the system is unfair!”

Which begs the question of whether to try to “fix” the system (politically untenable, maybe, but historically demonstrated to be undoable for whatever reason) — or open it up to innovation and let parents be able to choose schools OUTSIDE where they happen to live, if they wish and can handle the logistics.

Screw fixing a system. Leverage the free market with free actors and let a new “system” — a complex of socio-economic realities — coalesce.

The hive is intelligent. Let it work without having to charter everything in inked planning.

rasqual on August 30, 2011 at 11:57 AM

katiejane on August 30, 2011 at 9:05 AM
Are you claiming that special needs students need more $$$ per student than non-special needs students?
blink on August 30, 2011 at 10:13 AM

Yes, many do… What is your point/objection?

I’d add that if there is one thing public schools do pretty well is educate special needs children. Unfortunately though the system is getting overwhelmed too.

CCRWM on August 30, 2011 at 11:58 AM

The schools and churches are distinct entities.

tommyboy on August 30, 2011 at 10:33 AM

Absolutely not. I went to a parochial school – the parish ran the church and the school, the parish Monsignor was headmaster of the school. They are one entity.

ernesto on August 30, 2011 at 12:00 PM

CCRWM: Many, but not all public schools, do well with special ed kids. It depends on a lot of factors. Where they lack what they need to do it, they direct their funding for special ed to private alternative schools. That meets with mixed results too. I know my own company has improved a LOT since I started with it many years ago — but in this line of work there’s always — always, always, always — room for improvement. I’ll say this: you can’t improve without good staff. Impossible. Leadership too. Gotta have it.

rasqual on August 30, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Not necessarily. There are certain fixed overhead expenses that are “costed” to the total number of kids. So if you have fewer students to pay a share, the district still has to cover those expenses – they won’t get more funds for it.

katiejane on August 30, 2011 at 9:05 AM

You mean like those really expensive Taj Mahal schools with three story central atrium that looks like the inside of a mall, and the movie-theatre marquee outside the auditorium?

SELL THE DAM* BUILDINGS THAT AREN’T USED!

Most of them in my area were WAY over priced and never should have been built that way to start with! Stupid decisions a few years ago shouldn’t be used as an excuse to make more stupid decisions!

dominigan on August 30, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Absolutely not. I went to a parochial school – the parish ran the church and the school, the parish Monsignor was headmaster of the school. They are one entity.

ernesto on August 30, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Depends. The school run by our old church was administered completely separately. While they taught Biblical principles, it was run separately from the church and had its own board, teachers and curriculum not tied specifically to the church. Of course, we are Evangelical, not Catholic.

dominigan on August 30, 2011 at 12:29 PM

CCRWM: Many, but not all public schools, do well with special ed kids. It depends on a lot of factors. Where they lack what they need to do it, they direct their funding for special ed to private alternative schools. That meets with mixed results too. I know my own company has improved a LOT since I started with it many years ago — but in this line of work there’s always — always, always, always — room for improvement. I’ll say this: you can’t improve without good staff. Impossible. Leadership too. Gotta have it.
rasqual on August 30, 2011 at 12:01 PM

My impression is that those who work with the special needs kids do it because they wNt to. It’s more of a vocation and they seem very vested in the results. We have some very good public schools in my area but only because the parents are more invested and they also fought to make them Chater Schools. The parents and school administration aggressively protect the charter requirements.

CCRWM on August 30, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Absolutely not. I went to a parochial school – the parish ran the church and the school, the parish Monsignor was headmaster of the school. They are one entity.
ernesto on August 30, 2011 at 12:00 PM

All that shows is overlapping employees and agents. Guaranteed they are registered as different entities, probably non-profit corporations and the bank accounts are distinct and separate.

tommyboy on August 30, 2011 at 12:34 PM

WashJeff on August 30, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Can’t keep away from the ad hominems?! I attacked the institution and its beliefs not its members. I probably know more about that particular religion than most here but that is beside the point.

Annar on August 30, 2011 at 12:42 PM

Before my youngest attended first grade, I attended a parent’s meeting with the teacher. As part of the meeting, we were encouraged to write on a 3×5 index card what our expectations for the teacher were for managing “her” kids. (grrr) I wrote…

“God has delegated responsibility for the caring and education of his creation to me, the parent of _______. I am choosing to delegate this responsibility to you. Please don’t lose sight of the responsibility that parents are placing with you for the education of their children.”

After failing in her responsibilities (she actually caused my daughter to have panic attacks), we pulled her from public school to homeschool her along with her two older siblings.

Today, she is a bright and articulate 14-year old, knows what she wants to do with her life, and studies for it regularly.

She would NOT have gotten this opportunity in a public school. And I say that having gone through the public school system myself, with most of my relatives being public school teachers/etc.

dominigan on August 30, 2011 at 12:43 PM

The bottom line for the success in any education system is the investment of the parents in terms of both time and money. If the parents are involved in the school, their child is more likely to achieve success. If the parent is disengaged, then the child is more likely to fail.

We all agree that an educated populace is important not only for the economic health of the country but also for its social health. Thomas Jefferson once wrote that education is the keystone of a free and democratic people. So the difference between a sucessful and unsuccessful system is no small matter.

Given the importance of parents in the success of the school and their children’s own success, which system is more likely to work: one in which the parents send their kids away to public school chosen for them by geography and political boundaries and in which their children become wards of the state for 7 hours a day, OR, one in which the parents choose the school and become invested in the outcome by the virtue of that choice?

Parochial and private schools – and homeschooling – have a headstart on public school simply because parents have choosen to put their kids in those environments. They have much stronger motivation and interest in success than any bureacrat or union official.

PackerBronco on August 30, 2011 at 12:53 PM

Absolutely not. I went to a parochial school – the parish ran the church and the school, the parish Monsignor was headmaster of the school. They are one entity.

ernesto on August 30, 2011 at 12:00 PM

When I went to Catholic school, the parish did run the school but a nun was principal. In my Catholic high school, a priest was the principal. That has changed now. The same schools are run by indidviduals that aren’t even Catholic and non-Catholics make up a large part of the student body.

Our elementary school just had a 25% increase in enrollment and we’ve opened a pre-school as well. Anyone can opt out from any religious features or classes but it is expensive.

We don’t have vouchers here but most of the increase in enrollment was by non-Catholics.

Vince on August 30, 2011 at 1:09 PM

WashJeff on August 30, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Can’t keep away from the ad hominems?! I attacked the institution and its beliefs not its members. I probably know more about that particular religion than most here but that is beside the point.

Annar on August 30, 2011 at 12:42 PM

What religion, or its members, did I attack? I have not identified anything religious on this thread?

WashJeff on August 30, 2011 at 2:04 PM

The bottom line from our perspective is, when you cut through all the chaff, nobody can deny that public money is going to be taken from public schools, and they’re going to end up in private, mostly religious schools

Yep, we’d rather have kids be poorly educated and unable to find a job later in life than have them exposed to religion.

Go ahead and run with that argument. For the good of the nation we must stop children from access to superior educational opportunities; because you personally don’t like them and think the choice should be blocked.

I’m sure “for the good of the nation we must permanently damage the children” is probably as persuasive as “for the good of the children”… to someone.

Or you could argue that the public schools are equal in education levels… maybe you’ve sufficiently dumbed-down the country so they’d believe something that idiotic.

gekkobear on August 30, 2011 at 2:10 PM

The bottom line from our perspective is, when you cut through all the chaff, nobody can deny that public money is going to be taken from public schools, and they’re going to end up in private, mostly religious schools

Exactly and we have a separation of Church and State. We have the State on one side, we have the child attending a parochial school at the other side and separating the two is a parent making a free choice.

PackerBronco on August 30, 2011 at 2:26 PM

“The bottom line from our perspective is, when you cut through all the chaff, nobody can deny…”

I hope this person doesn’t teach writing.

Tzetzes on August 30, 2011 at 2:46 PM

I am in favor of school choice. I am interested in the cost of state education vs the cost of private schooling. Do the vouchers cover the cost of private schooling?

Why anyone would want to trap children in a poor or even failing school system is beyond comprehension.

TomLawler on August 30, 2011 at 3:30 PM

I like vouchers. If your kid is obnoxious and lazy, the school can tell them you to take them elsewhere and focus on working with supportive parents and children who are well-behaved and actually want to learn. As a tax payer, I’m down with that.

Amazing how many people out there know how to fix education and believe a “principle” runs a school. Speaks volumes.

Do the vouchers cover the cost of private schooling?

No. They charge for books, possibly demand PC notebooks to be bought, uniforms, various fees…they’re businesses. If your kid gets kicked out, the money stays. There is little to no financial accountability because they are private entities. There is no academic oversight beyond the rather innocuous accreditation organizations…provide documentation, dot your i’s and cross your t’s on “self-studies” and you’re accredited.

Why anyone would want to trap children in a poor or even failing school system is beyond comprehension.

The entire system isn’t failing. It’s districts here and there that both Libs and Cons like to point out for ideological arguments…Libs for more government control, Cons to fight evolution, the belief that a trade and making money trumps a classical education and to weaken Dem-supporting unions.

Kids can be “trapped” in a private/parochial school as well. The parents might keep them there because they went to school there, like the religious atmosphere, because they have a great sports team, have a reputation of getting kids into colleges. Whether or not their kids really learn is not the point-the parent feeling good about themselves is.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 30, 2011 at 11:49 PM