Friday, June 15, 2012

Privatizing Education: The Politics of Vouchers

Following is a table formatted summary of an article printed in the February issue of the Kappan on "Privatizing Education: The Politics of Vouchers" by Sheila Suess Kennedy.
For Tax Support Vouchers at Private Schools
For Tax Supported Public Schools Only
(Against Vouchers)
Philosophical Beliefs
Individual rights
Collective civic aspirations
Pro-market libertarians - prepare individuals to compete in the marketplace.
Business - competition will always produce the best results at the lowest price.
Christian Right - atheism and immorality are being forced upon all public school students.
The Catholic Church - beneficiary of the voucher since many are struggling financially.
The Educational Establishment - a vested interest in the survival of the public school system.
Civil libertarians and church/state separationists - vouchers are seen as a frontal attack on the First Amendment and as a "values agenda" of prayer and creationism.
African American Organizations - deeply suspicious of the racial motives of the voucher programs.
Allows Conservatives to appeal to lower-middle-class white resentments without overt racism and offer something to inner city African Americans.
Targets the appeal to white resentments—lower-middle-class males who lack a college education, who see themselves blocked in their careers by women and minorities, and whose attitudes provide “a classic example of disengagement from anything involving collective action.”
Originally proposed as a means to help the poor, black urban family escape failing schools—now seen as a subsidy to enable middle-class families to have a choice.

Viewed as a violation of the First Amendment doctrine of separation of church and state. The “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment prohibits the use of tax dollars to support religious programs or institutions. Any voucher program designed to give significant “choice must include sectarian institutions.
Can schools receiving public tax dollars discriminate against students, teachers, or support staff, based upon race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation? 
What about the right of due process?
Would the voucher schools be accountable to the public or to their clients?

Role of the Government
Market economics and individual choice.
Education is a public good, but the role of government should be limited to that of funder.
The market can and should provide the educational services and should enable families to purchase those services.

Community and social cohesion.
Education is a public service. The government should be the leader and provider.
Public education is to encourage social cohesion—not separation.

What is effective schooling?
Education should be measured by academic criteria only.
Core academic mission of the school is to impact competency in the math, science, and language skills—so critical to technology and international competition.
Public Schools should promote the civic values of tolerance, equality, liberty, and democracy.
Public schools should provide the environments that teach our young how to encounter, understand, and go beyond differences—how to fashion American unity out of our incredible diversity.
Extremes of points of view on vouchers
Maximum personal choice and individual freedom.
Government is the provider of services for customers.

Importance of a common civic infrastructure and collective interests.
Government is a generator of social capital and an instrument of collective choice.

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