Archive for the 'Vouchers' Category

Kozol Attacks Effective Parents

Ongoing efforts to widen parental choice in selecting schools are often met with formidable resistance. The latest is from Jonathan Kozol in August Harpers Magazine.  Please see below my Letter to the Editor protesting Kozol’s attack on vouchers and school choice.




Dear Sir:

I was so disappointed to read the attack on effective parents by Jonathan Kozol (The Big Enchilada, Harpers, August 2007). He has worked with, and written sensitively about, families and schools for decades, yet now, in the debates about choice and vouchers, he decries the possibility of children of the ”more effective parents” getting into what he calls “boutique schools”. What if these parents are acting in the best interests of their children in seeking the best education for them–whether they are dyslexic, gifted, athletic or average?

Instead of bemoaning what effective parents can do, shouldn’t we all strive to have effective parents as the norm in our society? We should seek ways in which both parents and children can be enabled to be as effective as possible, and choosing schools which best fit educational needs is one way. In fact, choice should become family policy as a general principle.

Choicelessness, on the other hand, leads to mediocrity, inequity, hopelessness, despair, and shrinking of decision-making skills. Kozol does a grave disservice to society as a whole by disparaging effective parenting.


Tunya Audain, West Vancouver, Canada

Choicelessness in Education Contributes to Poverty

One of the most important jobs of families is to ensure their children get an education suitable to their talents and needs. Most parents start out eager to help their children in their schools, but can rapidly lose self confidence if involvement is superficial or rebuffed. What really hurts is if parents are perceived as incompetent in their role in education and told to "leave it to the experts". Choosing a school for their child and staying actively involved has been shown not only to help student performance, but also to contribute to family enhancement and parental efficacy. Parental choice in education, as seen by Berkeley Emeritus professor John E. Coons, can also contribute to family financial health.

There are a lot of benign effects of school choice but, for me, choice is family policy. It is one of the most important things we could possibly do as therapy for the institution of the family, for which we have no substitute. The relationship between the parent and child is very damaged if the parent loses all authority over the child for six hours a day, five days a week, and over the content that is put into the child’s mind. "What must it be like for people who have raised their children until they’re five years old, and suddenly, in this most important decision about their education, they have no say at all? They’re stripped of their sovereignty over their child. "And what must it be like for the child who finds that his parents don’t have any power to help him out if he doesn’t like the school? We are always complaining about the lack of responsibility in low-income families. But, the truth is, we have taken the authority away from them in this most important aspect of their child’s life…. "It’s a shame that there are no social science studies on the effect of choicelessness on the family. If you are stripped of power and kept out of the decision-making loop you are likely to experience degeneration of your own capacity to be effective, because you have nothing to do.If you don’t have any responsibilities, you get flabby. And what we have are flabby families at the bottom end of the income scale."

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly supports parental choice:

Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Note that private and independent schools literature to parents often states things like: "The parents are the primary educators of their children. As your school we are here to help". They are enablers, not disablers.

Choice in Schools Still Widely Resisted

The Economist news magazine (May 5, 2007) reported

New research shows that parental choice raises standards–including for those who stay in public schools. FEW ideas in education are more controversial than vouchers—letting parents choose to educate their children wherever they wish at the taxpayer’s expense…the principle is compellingly simple. The state pays; parents choose; schools compete; standards rise; everybody gains. Simple, perhaps, but it has aroused predictable—and often fatal—opposition from the educational establishment.

Opposition comes from many sources, but mostly from occupations or services related to the near-monopolistic public school systems. Public school systems have bred whole industries and bulging middle management bureacracies where jobs and feelings of self worth depend on keeping their positions — regardless as to whether students get a good education or not. Teacher unions, education professors, researchers, school board officials and trustees and hosts of other dependents have superior skills, tools and finances to fight efforts to bring in parental choice in a marketplace of schools via vouchers, tuition tax credits or scholarships.

Expansive Voucher Program to Start Fall 2007/Utah

The story in The Salt Lake City Tribune by Nicole Stricker

uses glowing terms to describe the signing into law of HB148, Utah’s new voucher bill:

  • “The watershed program rolls out in the fall”
  • “landmark school voucher bill”
  • “the nation’s most expansive voucher program”
  • “first-ever universal school choice program”
  • “Utah’s program dwarfs voucher programs in other states”

The funding for the program will come from general funds, not education funds, and will apply to “all incoming kindergartners, all current public school students and private school children from low-income families.” It will not apply to students already enrolled in private schools other than those of low-income. “The program will cost more each year until all private school students are using vouchers in 13 years.”

ELIGIBLE SCHOOLS: Must employ college-educated or skilled teachers, operate outside a residence, enroll at least 40 students and not discriminate based on race, color or national origin. They must give parents the results of a standardized test once a year and submit to a financial audit once every four years.”

The opening words of the bill state:

parents are presumed best informed to make decisions for their children, including the educational setting that will best serve their children’s interests and educational needs.”

PS: It’s a wonderful world when people who feel they are just a “voice in the wilderness” can communicate so readily with other like-minded people. Of course, this is due to that great invention, the Internet!

Not 12 minutes after I posted my first draft of the above message, the Technorati picked up this post:

Utah’s New School Voucher Program

Tammy Bruce by · 12 minutes ago ·

A post by Maynard This could turn out to be very important news, so it should be on your radar. Two weeks ago, Gov … at limited areas or limited applicants. Naturally, the opponents of vouchers are moving quickly … vouchers may go to schools with a religious orientation. (For the record, this issue was resolved long ago

School Vouchers Wait for Governor’s Proclamation: UTAH

On Feb 12, 2007, Utah passed a bill to provide a grant from $500 – 3000 for a child to enter a private school of choice. The amount will depend on the parents’ means. See latest article in The Daily Herald.

With only 3% of the state’s students presently in private schools it remains to be seen what shift will occur. The concession made to critics of vouchers who fear exodus from public schools is that a departing student will still be counted and funded in the departed district for 5 years. Also, families who presently enroll in private schools will not get funding, only new enrollees.

The bill (House Bill 148) was spearheaded by Rep. Steven Urquhart and his supporters from Parents for Choice in Education. The opening words of the bill state:

parents are presumed best informed to make decisions for their children, including the educational setting that will best serve their children’s interests and educational needs.”