School Vouchers-Yay or Nay?!

Most children in America will never have an equal opportunity to be successful in school. The blame for this issue is due to many factors such as: race, ethnicity, social location and social class. However,

school vouchers are a great way to remedy these lower class hardships because [parents] they will now have the capital to fund their children’s pursuit of a better education. Many people believe this is a bad idea, but I believe this is a great option, which parents can utilize to at least have the opportunity for their children to attend any school.

School vouchers are a government-funded program aimed at improving education for the children of low-income families by providing school tuition that can be used at public or private schools. The parents are empowered to use the school vouchers in order to provide a wider variety of schools to choose from. The vouchers can be used at a public or private school. This will apply pressure on public schools to perform better and teach students proficiently. In my opinion, there is a lack there of drive within our public school systems; it also forces teachers to step up their game and actually “teach” because their jobs are literally on the line.

The first school voucher program was utilized in the United States in 1990. The first city to put this into play was Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and it is what it is – a state funded program. It allows underprivileged children the chance to attend private schools, since they do not have the financial means to even consider a private school, and vouchers are intended to give the parents more options in which school they prefer their children to be educated. This system is mainly aimed at lower class families, but some middle class families may qualify for school vouchers. However, the voucher program has stirred up quite a controversy because its opposing parties believe that it is the demise of public schools nationwide. I believe in the school voucher system and I am going to prove why, but let’s hear what the opposition has to say first!

The reality of school vouchers is that they cannot help our children. According to Derrick Z. Jackson, of the Boston Globe, a newspaper article that was published on July 10, 2002, states “Vouchers cannot offer a path to freedom when so many children will be left behind” (Jackson 2). Jackson argues, “Vouching for vouchers is easy if you do not intend to use them” (Jackson 1). The thought behind these quotes are that private schools are so expensive now that the amount allocated to the parents would not even cover “ivy league” private schools. Instead, the parents are “bamboozled” into only being allotted enough school voucher money to put there underprivileged children into “B” level and or subsidiary private schools with mediocre education standards. So this is why Jackson feels vouchers are good – if you do not use them because they are practically worthless. He believes that the vouchers are a cover up orchestrated to divert attention from the public school system and make the people feel that they are reaping the true benefits of school vouchers when in fact they are not because vouchers only allow sub-par funding for mediocre private schools.

In another article which goes “against the grain” of school vouchers, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) argues, “school vouchers are the wrong choice for public education” (ADL 2). They believe that the school voucher program undermines two American traditions: universal public education and the separation of church and state. Public education is directly affected because attendance will diminish since children will now have the option to attend private schools. This will create catastrophic losses to the future state funds towards the public school systems because without attendance the system cannot thrive; school vouchers would be at fault since there will be no one to teach anymore. Moreover, according to the ADL, the separation of church and state is being violated because the school vouchers are constitutionally “suspect.” The ADL believes school vouchers “…would force citizens – Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheist – to pay for the religious indoctrination of school children at schools with narrow parochial agendas” (ADL 1). This would cause children of any and all religions to take up Catholic religious teachings because most private schools “revolve” around such teachings. In order to utilize the school vouchers a student would definitely be subjected to these kinds of teachings. Although there is nothing wrong with Catholicism, it still would compromise the teachings of other religions in order to use the school voucher system effectively. This solidifies the point brought to light earlier by Derrick Jackson arguing, “…so many children will be left behind” (Jackson 2).

Although the ADL believes the separation of church and state are being violated – the Supreme Court affirmed the school voucher program. According to CNN, in an article written by Terry Frieden, “In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said the school voucher program does not constitute the establishment of religion” (Freiden 1). According to another article by P.J. McEwan, of the Peabody Journal of Education, “The pioneering case was Simmons-Harris v. Zelman in June 27, 2002, in which the Supreme Court removed a legal barrier to implementation of vouchers because existing private schools are mostly sectarian” (McEwan 2). The case was about separation of church and state within the public school system because the school voucher program in Clevaland, Ohio was allegedly compromising the First Amendment. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court argued in a closing statement, “We believe the program challenged here is a program of true private choice”; “The Ohio program is neutral in all respects toward religion”; and, “It is part of a general and multifaceted undertaking by the State of Ohio to provide educational opportunities to the children of a failed school district” (McEwan 1). This now applies to all cases in regards to school vouchers because the Supreme Court verdict was the point of no return; it also solidified my position that school vouchers are beneficial to the “poor” and does not violate the First Amendment.

There are many reasons why I agree with the school voucher programs. Maybe it’s because my family comes from a lower class; we literally have no surplus capital within our family budget to put towards my higher education, and I probably would have graduated from a private school with honors and prestige if this program was available to me when I was growing up. When I was in third grade at Saint Anthony’s, a private school around my neighborhood in The Bronx, my family couldn’t afford the tuition, and my mother had to pull me out of school mid-year. I was really devastated by this rash movement from private school to public school. My friends, hard work, and success had been a thing of the past since financial burdens forced me out! Although I didn’t have much choice I really would have preferred private over public school; it was a step down from success because the public school system was and had always been a complete “mess” for me. My new public school teacher, the overcrowding, and the undisciplined atmosphere of my new peers did nothing less of a disservice to my learning, progress, and success. There is and will always be a “hidden curriculum,” which tries to implement a sense of discipline in every school, but it was never present in any of the public school I attended.

The normal cliché of the opponents to school vouchers arguably is “…vouchers do allow students and money to flow out of the public schools, and it would seem to follow that schools are worse off with fewer resources” “End of story” (Moe 2). I totally disagree and an article written in the New York Times, by Terry M. Moe, in 2004, titled How Vouchers will Enrich Public Schools, points out “…the schools also have fewer children to educate, and would receive the same money per child as before” (Moe 2). Basically, being that the lower-class children would be attending more private schools, this would free up the overcrowding burden within our public school system, and the state would still be giving the same amount of funds. Except this time around it would be allocated evenly since the student capacity would be normal due to the implementation of school voucher programs.

In fact, the public schools should actually come out ahead. In a typical voucher program, the cost of the voucher (say, $4,500) is far lower than the average amount the public schools spend on each student (say $8,000). This means that when students go private, only part of the money budgeted for their education goes with them. The remainder stays in the government’s pocket. If these savings were put back into public schools, the schools would actually have more money per child. And the greater the number of students using vouchers, the greater the increase in spending per child could be” (Moe 2). So in other words, the more children use vouchers the more big savings when students utilize the school vouchers and go to private schools.

Another reason why school vouchers are good is because children graduate at a higher rate. According to the New York Post (NEWS), in an article titled Voucher Kids’ Grad Rate High, “Students who get vouchers to go to private high schools graduate at much higher rates than students at traditional public schools” (NYP 9). People say that it is not really proven that school vouchers in private schools provide better results. “In this news article research performed by the Researchers at Manhattan Institute and School Choice Wisconsin, found that 64 percent of students in Milwaukee’s pioneering voucher program graduated, compared with 36 percent of students at public schools”; “The vouchers’ graduation rate also outstripped that of kids at elite public high schools” (NYP 9). This research further solidifies the fact that school voucher programs do breed better results because private schools are much more “prestigious” than public school systems.

It’s actually ironic because this weekend I spoke to my Aunt Elsie and we had and extensive conversation about school vouchers. Mind you she is a graduate from Hunter College, specializing in Education, and she is totally for school vouchers. She resides here in The Bronx, she wants to send her daughter to school next year for Kindergarten, but one thing stands in her way – not enough money to put her daughter through private school. My Aunt is not considered lower class, but the tuition is so high in New York City that it’s almost impossible to keep up with tuition cost. “Where are the school vouchers when you really need ‘em,” she asked?

I personally believe in school voucher programs because it helps out the people in need and puts a sense of urgency on public school systems all over the nation to “step up” their game and teach our children better. There really hasn’t been a prominent need to apply pressure, but the public school system has failed us over and over again and it’s time for a change. School Vouchers are the wave of the future in order to ensure the success of the next generation by providing options to the lower class. Besides, “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” and if we help out the lower class then we are setting ourselves up for success within our economy; it also will level out the playing field and possibly alleviate overcrowding public schools because more options will be made available via school voucher programs.

In conclusion, I have written about the pros and cons of school vouchers. I have also proven to you why we the people need school vouchers in order to have “freedom” to pick whatever school we see fit for our children without considering financial burdens. “What better way to spend our tax money…than to invest in our children’s future to pursue higher education.”

Works Cited

Jackson, Derrick. “The Realities of School Vouchers.” Boston Globe. 10 July 2002:

McEwan, P. J. “The Potential Impact of Vouchers.” Peabody Journal of Education. 79
(2004): 57-80

Moe, Terry. “How Vouchers Will Enrich Public Schools.” New York Times. 24 Jan
2004, pA15: col 02

“School Vouchers: The Wrong Choice for Public Education.” Anti-Defemation League.
10 November 2005. 11 November 2005. http://www.adl.org

“Supreme Court affirms school voucher program.” CNN.com. 27 June 2002.
28 June 2002. http://cnn.com.

“Voucher Kids’ Grad Rate High” New York Post. 29 September 2004:
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