November 15, 2005


School Vouchers Taking Hold In Washington (MEGHAN CLYNE, November 14, 2005, NY Sun)

When the time came for April Walton's daughter, Breanna, to enter elementary school, Ms. Walton didn't know what to do. The prospect of turning her daughter over to a public school was frightening.

"I didn't feel that was a good environment," Ms. Walton, a single mother of two, said. "But I couldn't afford to send her anywhere else."

Ms. Walton found the solution to her problem, one shared by thousands of parents in the District of Columbia, in Washington's Opportunity Scholarship program. The $13 million, federally funded, five-year pilot program - created by an act of Congress in January 2004 - provides a voucher of up to $7,500 for low-income families in the District of Columbia to send their children to private schools. Now in its second year, the voucher program is generating positive reviews, both formal and anecdotal.

Washington's mayor, Anthony Williams, a Democrat who bucked his party to push for the program, said he was pleased with the results so far - including the vouchers' effect on the public school system, one of the worst-performing in the nation.

"I think the good schools have gotten better, and the mediocre schools are getting on track because, I believe, we've had a charter school movement that's been very robust, and because of the vouchers," Mr. Williams told The New York Sun.

Vouchers are an issue with which the GOP could drive a wedge between blacks and the Democratic Party, were they not afraid of white backlash.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 15, 2005 9:02 PM

Id be interested in all of your thoughts on this. What if Jimmy Carter had found a way to be re-elected?

Would the Soviet Union have fallen anyway? I'd argue no. Nothing that socially elastic is inevitable.

The education establishment today occupies a similar position that the USSR held in 1985 or so.

They appear strong, but suffer from internal rot and weakness.

That said, the weakness could never have been exploited by a dishrag like Jimmy Carter. We need to start exploiting that weakness, and exposing it.

Public Education has bankrupted most states while dumbing down generations of human potential.

If the GOP won't assist in driving the wedge OJ speaks of, we will miss the window of opportunity we have.

Posted by: Bruno at November 15, 2005 9:55 PM

Of course it would have. Communism doesn't work.

Posted by: oj at November 15, 2005 10:40 PM


The fall of the USSR was inevitable, though I find it difficult to imagine that Jimmy Carter would have had the strength of will and resolve to push the crumbling and decaying Soviet Union over the edge as RR did. The winner of the 1984 race would have been the one to actually push humpty dumpty off the wall.

Posted by: Dave W. at November 15, 2005 11:10 PM

There have been sick empires like the Ottomans that nevertheless lasted for a long time. I believe the Soviet Union would have eventually collapsed, but numerous books about Reagan administration policies (not all by conservatives) make it apparent that he gave them a good hard shove into the ash heap.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at November 15, 2005 11:19 PM

Why, why why, does anyone imagine that vouchers involve shipping g.s.c.'s out to suburban schools? Anyone who thinks this would happen doesn't understand how big city schools work.

Before that could happen, the great leap of erasing district lines would have to be taken, and that we shall never see.

Vouchers are about returning some of civil society's money to the people so that they may shop for educational services. The highest priority for parents is to separate their children from disruptive, violent and otherwise deviant children. This is why people move again and again, from neighborhood to neighborhood, community to community.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 15, 2005 11:56 PM


Once the vouchers are universal the inner city kids will be attending parochial, private, and suburban schools in some number.

Posted by: oj at November 16, 2005 8:19 AM

Steve Malanga details nicely how pubic sector unions are the financial engine driving democrates in this country so if vouchers can be used to weaken the big one, namely the American Federation of teachers while improving education, only fools would pass that opportunity up.

I fear however, that that is what is going to happen as the "third way" gives into grabbing power (now that's never happened before) and repubs simply choose to co-opt the public sector unions as it is politically more expedient, think CA.

Posted by: Perry at November 16, 2005 8:21 AM


The Third Way requires parental choice, which means vouchers, which means breaking the teachers' unions.

Thus does conservative opposition to the Third Way insure the Second.

Posted by: oj at November 16, 2005 8:31 AM


You are exactly wrong about "district lines".

Vouchers need to be implemented for the specific reason of erasing these lines. Districts are a ficticious concept that exist for the sole purpose of growing bureaucracy.

They don't educate anyone. Schools need to be untethered from the false idea of a "district."

I can't speak for every state, but in Illinois, the case is VERY easy to make. It isn't an easy political battle, but it is winnable if someone fights it.

BTW - "fighting it" was my point re: USSR. I submit that all of you are correct in theory (that it would have fallen eventually)

In practice however, it would still be here if a Reagan didn't attack it. This is how it is with education today.

If we don't attack it, it won't change. Further, NOTHING, and I mean nothing, undermines our civilzation more than today's public school.

Posted by: Bruno at November 16, 2005 9:14 AM

If vouchers are used to go to suburban (public) schools, in what way does that weaken teacher unions?

Vouchers if given to poor black families, will be used first to go presently available private (parochial) schools and then will form the financing for black segregated academies. At least in my locale.

Posted by: h-man at November 16, 2005 9:48 AM


It pits teachers against each other.

Posted by: oj at November 16, 2005 9:55 AM

oj. You're wrong that vouchers are a racial issue. That might have been the case in the 50's, but now middle class blacks and whites share the same world view.

Vouchers would work fine if they are driven by parental action, not community action as was the forced busing of thirty years ago. As more and more inner city kids spin off to non-public schools, the existing public schools will have to reform or close their doors, and the market place will have the last word again.

Posted by: erp at November 16, 2005 10:41 AM


Not according to polls and congressional constituency offices--the white middle class is afraid letting in black kids will wreck their own schools.

Posted by: oj at November 16, 2005 10:54 AM


That has not been the case in our school. We don't have vouchers but several non-Catholic African-American families put their kids in our school. We even have black kids from Madagascar and the Ivory Coast here.

The primary reason, the parents say, they switched schools is that it is a better learning environment for their children. This echos erps comments above.

Posted by: Bartman at November 16, 2005 11:22 AM


Into a Catholic school, no?

Posted by: oj at November 16, 2005 11:27 AM

Yes we are a Catholic school. I not sure what you are driving at.

Most, if not all, of our parents are active in their children's education. I've not heard any negative talk about the black children in our school.

Posted by: Bartman at November 16, 2005 11:54 AM


Yes, it's white parents who are satisfied with their public schools who are opposed.

Posted by: oj at November 16, 2005 11:59 AM

oj. How can you be living in a past that was over before you were even born? Your assertion is ridiculous. Are there no non-whites among those middle class parents polled who are satisfied with their schools?

Black kids sent to voucher schools by their engaged and involved parents would be welcome under almost all circumstances. If they become unmanageable disciple problems, they can be treated like any other private school problem students, they can be expelled.

As long as there is no danger of their schools being taken over by poverty pimp blacks, few parents of any race or ethnicity would have reason to object.

Posted by: erp at November 16, 2005 12:46 PM


Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but the rule remains: white parents oppose and black parents support vouchers.

Posted by: oj at November 16, 2005 1:08 PM

erp: You & oj are talking about 2 different things. Apparently lots of public opinion shows that whites are still influenced by controversies involving busing, where the stereotype was kids picked randomly from inner-city schools and bused out to suburban schools. There was an article I recall from a few years ago describing how an anti-"English only" campaign in Colorado was successful. They were interviewing a white, suburban mother who thought that Hispanic kids should definitely be taught English only. After some back and forth, she suddenly made a comment along the lines of "Wait a sec--you mean they would be in class with MY child?" And that's the fear that they successfully rode to victory, and the fear to which oj refers. I think it was posted here on this site, but I can't find it in the archives...

Posted by: b at November 16, 2005 1:43 PM

For some reason we seem to by talking past one another on this issue. Getting one's children away from dirt-balls is the primary reason families pick up and move, sometimes again and again. This is not necesarily or only a racial issue, although race is a clumsy, and unfair, shorthand for this discrimination.

That suburban parents do not want urban children is their schools is self-evident. That is why they are suburban parents. Vouchers only look bad to suburban parents because public schools has been set up as engines of homogenization. The public education machine calls this "Equity and inclusion."

If vouchers are tied in to more "equity and inclusion," then, yes, they are going nowhere.

Educators love to talk about "the research," by which they mean half-baked, poorly designed studies of "data" constucted and massaged to demonstrate whatever the writer wants it to. We see articles about how this or that method of teaching literacy or mathematics or even classrrom seating arrangement is better than another.

But when we delve into the "data," we see that this or that technique is better, for some children and less effective for others. For example, phonics training is beneficial for those children who have yet to grasp encoding-decoding of print, but is actually stultifying for those who are already comprehending written language.

So what does "equity and inclusion" require? First that the preference is for the worst-off, so phonics it is, and then, the advanced sudents are to sit through it, because we're all in it together. What is the parent of the reader to do? What else, but get out of Dodge.

The purpose of vouchers is to give all parents the opportunity to flee "equiity and inclusion," not just those who can afford to move to the suburbs.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 16, 2005 2:13 PM

oj - It's probably more a money issue. A lot of white families moved to expensive suburbs, investing in expensive houses, to get good schools. If the ratio of suburban to urban school quality were to decline, their property values would suffer. Suburban residents don't want their main source of wealth to disappear.

Vouchers would improve the schools even in the suburbs, but the percentage of suburban voters who care about that as much as they care about housing prices is small.

Posted by: pj at November 16, 2005 2:27 PM


Sure, we're racist for good reason.

Posted by: oj at November 16, 2005 3:40 PM

how are these inner city kids going to get to the suburban schools ? and aren't the "white" people against vouchers of a certain political persuassion ?

Posted by: marco polo at November 16, 2005 5:10 PM