In consider the uniqueaptitudes and interests of individual
In The United States today, there is a broad consensus that the nationspublic education system needs improvement. Despite enormous budget increases,American public schools are not adequately educating their students, inevitablyweakening the nations future. Private and Parochial schools, however,generally continue their tradition of education and discipline and producegraduates properly equipped to meet the challenges of the workforce. A movementaimed at correcting this disparity in the hopes of improving overall educationhas recently been gaining momentum in the political and media arenas. Schoolvoucher initiatives, will help revamp the education system by creatingcompetition between public and private schools and offering American parents andstudents the freedom to choose the best school for their individual needs.
Suchvoucher programs, though not yet thoroughly proven, is consistent in promotingthe American ideas of independence, freedom, and free market competition, whileupholding both clauses of the First Amendment. The Current State of AmericanEducation “In the United States, most public school districts make enrollmentassignments without regard to student or parent preference. Students are simplyassigned to the school nearest their home. While occasionally students can beassaigned elsewhere for administrative reasons such as racial balance, theadministrators who determine enrollment generally do not consider the uniqueaptitudes and interests of individual students and the learning environment thatwould best foster their growth. School choice is non-existent.
School vouchersprovide a comprehensive kind of choice that allows parents to choose from amongnot only government schools but independent schools as well. While there areseveral ways to create this choice, the one most proposed is throughstate-issued vouchers worth up to a specified dollar amount when redeemed atparticipating schools for tuition. School choice lets parents determine whatschools best meet the needs of their children. Parents may choose any qualifyingschools with space available, public or private, either within or outside thedistrict.
The dollar then follows the scholar. Students choosing public schoolscontinue to receive state funding. Students opting for private schools mayreceive state scholarships worth, under most voucher proposals, half theper-pupil cost of public schooling. If a states system of public educationcosts the taxpayers $6,000 per studentnear the national averagea studentattending an independent school could receive a scholarship of $3,000.
That ismore than enough to cover the tuition at most independent schools, a fact thatin and of itself speaks volumes about the state of U.S. public schools.
Schoolvouchers dramatically increases equality of opportunity. Schools will be fundedonly to the extent that parents voluntarily decide to enroll their children inthat particular school. Like private enterprises, the schools will need tocompete to satisfy their customers. No customer will be forced to acceptunsatisfactory performance.
” Agenda for America 131-133 Americas publiceducation system is at a crossroads. Too many of our citizens are not educated.Illiteracy has become a national epidemic. American students are scoringsignificantly lower than their international counterparts on internationalexams, and our Scholastic Aptitude Test scores have fallen dramatically, downnearly eighty points in the past three decades. 1 America has the best-paideducators and the least-educated teenagers in the developed world. America hasthe best-organized teacher unions and the most chaotic schools in the developedworld.
Agenda p. 127 A Harris poll of employers found that only 22% feeltodays entrants to the workforce know math well. Only 12% feel that newemployees can write well. A mere 10% believe that graduates know how to solvecomplex problems. Only 30% of emplyers tanked the overall education of currentstudents as positive. Source: Scan.
..NCPA #1 Education spending in constantdollars has increased 12-fold since 1920. But in spite of longer school years, adoubling of teachers salaries and dramatic downsizing in classrooms,one-fourth of American children cannot, or can barely, understand writtenEnglish. Census data show public schools have become the second likeliest placein America for a violent crime to occur.
The solution is to unlock thepublic-school door, so kids and parents can escape failed schools if theychoose. THOMAS #1 After more than a decade of national attention and reformefforts, there should be little doubt that Americas schools remain in crisis.The number of college freshman taking remedial courses in reading, writing, andmath is rapidly accelerating. America’s public school system was initiated inthe early 1900s by Progressive Era reformers who believed that a rational,professional, and bureaucratic system–a “one best system”–could beestablished to maintain certain standards of education for all of society.Although such socialist thinking and economic planning have collapsed elsewherein the world–most notably in the former Soviet Union, China, and EasternEurope–we Americans have failed to apply the lessons in the few areas of oureconomy that are organized along similar lines.
Tragically, although ourunified, centralized government school system is a dinosaur in the informationage, it fiercely resists market-oriented re- forms. CATO # 2 Massive schoolbureaucracies divert scarce resources from real educational activities, depriveprincipals and teachers of any opportunity for authority and independence, andcreate an impenetrable bulwark against citizen efforts to change the schoolsystem. The school systems have become susceptible to influence only fromspecial-interest groups, notably the teachers’ unions and other elements of theeducation establishment.
Like factories of the former Soviet Union, America’sgovernment schools are technologically backward, overstaffed, inflexible,unresponsive to consumer demand, and operated for the convenience of top- levelbureaucrats. Not just free-market intellectuals hold those views. Albert Shanker,president of the American Federation of Teachers, acknowledged recently, It’stime to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, abureaucratic system in which everybody’s role is spelled out in advance andthere are few incentives for innovation and productivity.
It’s no surprise thatour school system doesn’t improve: It more resembles the communist economy thanour own market economy.(15) CATO #2 Vouchers are rooted in Americas historySCHUNDLER: Bartoletti’s concern about discriminatory practices betrays her lackof knowledge regarding urban education. Our thoroughly integrated private andparochial schools stand in sharp contrast to many of our government schools,which are as segregated as those which once existed in Alabama and Mississippi.Moreover, private schools are required by law to obey all of the civil rightslaws of the nation. Finally, questions of constitutionality are also a bogusissue. For 50 years, GI’s have been free to use GI Bill benfits at religiouslyaffiliated colleges as well as at secular colleges.
The Supreme Court has alsoupheld the right of parents to use federal vouchers for religiously affiliatedday care services. These folks like to justify their actions by declaring, asthe Americans United for the Separation of Church and State do, that”church-state separation stands as one of the foundations of ourNation.” But this just isn’t true. As anyone who has studied the earlyAmerica recognizes, the ideas of schooling and religion were inseparable.Article three of the Ordinance of 1787, which granted large tracks of federallands to the states, opined, “Religion, morality and knowledge, beingnecessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the meansof education shall be forever encouraged.” It was the churches that gavebirth to the young nation’s schools.
Grammar schools were funded and run by thelocal parish, and colleges like Harvard and Princeton were created for theexpress purpose of turning out ministers. Horace Mann, tireless advocate forpublic education found nothing improper with students reading from the Bibleeach day. Ironically, as Viteritti indicates, the real push for a separationbetween church and state came in the 1860’s and 1870’s. Bigots like SenatorJames G. Blaine were aghast at the number of Catholic immigrants entering thecountry. Blaine fought for a constitutional amendment to bar any public fundsfrom flowing into sectarian schools. He did not, however, seek to end the commonpublic school practice of daily readings from the King James Bible.
Publicschools were Protestant schools, and Blaine and the Know-Nothing sorts likedthem that way. Ultimately the amendment failed, but Blaine still won becausestates added Blaine amendments to their own constitutions. The phrase “wallof separation” leapt into popular parlance in 1947. Justice Black in hismajority opinion in Everson v. Board of Education, wrote “In the words ofJefferson, the cause against establishment of religion by law was intended toerect a wall of separation between church and state.” This phrase, wall ofseparation,” is regularly invoked by those who want to keep the schoolssecularized.
This is peculiar and a bit sophistical, for what is left unsaid isthe outcome of the Everson case. In 1941 New Jersey passed a statute thatauthorized local school boards to provide transportation to students attendingparochial schools. New Jersey wasn’t exactly striking out on new ground- no lessthan fifteen other states had similar laws.
The Court held that this law did notviolate the establishment clause. Black wrote that government must take aposition of aloof neutrality toward religious groups. Among other things,”the ‘establishment of religion clause’ of the First Amendment means atleast this: Neither state nor the Federal Government can set up a church.
Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer onereligion over another.” However, “other language of the amendmentcommand that New Jersey cannot hamper its citizens in the free exercise of theirreligion. Consequently, it cannot exclude Catholic, Lutherans, Mohammedans,Baptists, Jew, Methodists, Non-Believers, Presbyterians, or the members of anyother faith, or lack of it, from receiving the benefits of public welfarelegislation.” The reasoning behind this was simple but sane — provided thestatutes favor no particular religion and benefit the public, they are nooffense to the First Amendment. This idea makes much sense, and Congress hasoften been guided by it. Legislation like the GI Bill, the National DefenseEducation Act, the National Science foundation Act, college housing loans, andschool lunch acts have all funneled federal dollars into religious coffers forthe sake of the public good. And in the 1970 Cochran v.
Louisiana case, theCourt affirmed that Louisiana could rightly use tax dollars to purchase seculartextbooks for students at parochial schools. In deciding the controversies withwhich this piece began, one hopes that the federal and Supreme Court will stopup their ears to the nonsense being hurled from the hard right and left.Hopefully they will instead listen to history, which tells a more complex storyand which offers sane, reasonable guidelines that thwart theocracy withoutsacrificing the well-being of America’s children.