March 8th, 2006


Public Schools and Vouchers

I know this isn't a new thing, but an editorial in the NYTimes by John Tierney brings up the example of Milwaukee schools. He makes the assertion that is a conservative truism: "...the students in public schools have benefited from the competition."

Now please correct me if I'm missing something -- and I'm not just being snarky, please do! -- perhaps the threat of losing student population to voucher schools might change the behavior of public schools positively. But it is likely that some school districts will in fact fail to compete, lose student population, and therefore funding, limiting even more what they can do to compete. In that case, you end up with a two-tier system, where the cash-starved public schools are the last stoop for poorer families, who even with vouchers cannot afford a private school.

The net result is a situation of educational haves and have-nots. This has been the situation in many cities for years, even without vouchers. Vouchers allow even more families to defect from the public schools. Bully for them, maybe -- rich people have always known you get the education you pay for, and I don't know any parent who is capable of paying for a better education who wouldn't consider it money well spent.

But what is the end game of this policy, other than to decimate free public education? Free, universal public education through high school has been been a great leveller in the US. Any kid who is motivated to learn, and given the proper family support, can get an education that facilitates their economic and social success. The voucher system looks like just another instance of Grover Norquists "starve the beast" idea -- limit the resources available to public education, and let it dry up and blow away.

This seems a horrible idea. Rich people already send their kids to private schools and have no stake in public schools. Middle class people have a significant motivation to ditch the public schools, and have less stake in properly funding them. And the poor end up getting the shaft, denied the kind of education that would allow the possibility of economic and social mobility.

Conservatives see Capitalism as the solution to every economic, social and political woe. But that is ridiculous on its face -- there are things only a government can do, as an expression of the political will of the country. Unbridled Capitalism hasn't done a very good job of improving the quality of the environment -- in fact, the opposite is true. And it will do an even shittier job providing universal education. To fail to provide decent, universal education condemns many students to permanent underclass status.

And the worst part of this whole debacle is that in the long run, failing to educate people properly means that they're not going to be very useful workers. Companies need competent, flexible, educated workers, and writing off the public school diminishes the supply.

chatters review Richie Hawtin's DE9 "Transitions"

(luna/ this is g ood for work stuff
(luna/ good work music
(kent/ my thought exactly.
(kent/ richie is following his listeners as they grow up, from black plastic covered warehouse parties, to their office cubicles
(lens/m.power): to their tacky funerals
(lens/m.power): eventually
(lens/m.power): i forgot tacky weddings
(luna/ agrd
(kent/ i can see it now -- a raver funeral. everyone has a black pacifier
(lens/m.power): that joke would have been edgy like 10 yrs ago
(kent/ at gator's funeral?
(kent/ we should call de9 transitions 'dilbert techno'
(lens/m.power): err
(lens/m.power): id prefer office space techno