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School voucher programs all wrong

Gabriel A. Fraire / October 9, 2015

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The North Carolina Supreme Court recently upheld the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program which sends public dollars to private and religious schools. The Opportunity Scholarship Program is basically a wolf in sheep’s clothing better known as school vouchers. While this program has been upheld in North Carolina, an Oregon state court found a similar law unconstitutional, thus this battle may be adjudicated at the federal level.

Although I believe people should have a right to attend or not attend any school they wish, I do not believe public dollars should go to support private schools. Most school voucher programs are simply an attempt to end run around good public education for all. It is an effort to limit quality education to the few. And no matter how it is cloaked, people of color should consider this to be another case of racial injustice.

Voucher programs are no more than a way for rich people to separate themselves from the rest of us. Or, for White people to keep their children away from children of color. No matter how fancy you make the propaganda, like calling it a scholarship program, the end result is the same — less support of public schools, more tax money going to private schools.

In this country we should all have the right to a good education, not just those with means and opportunity.

Proponents of voucher programs try to claim these programs are good for all but they are not. They are good for the chosen few, those who know how to work the system, those of means and the correct complexion. Since the majority of the private schools qualified to accept vouchers are religious in orientation this is a good indication that this voucher program also ignores the concept of separation of church and state.

There are also questions about how to ensure that private schools receiving taxpayer funds will provide high quality educational experiences. Unfortunately, many of these private schools whether based on religious orientations or secular have minimum criteria with which they must comply in regards to state laws. They will also be administering assessment tests that will not be comparable with those tests public school systems are required to give, thus skewing any “educational comparisons.”

These private schools also have little state oversight. There are close to 700 private schools in North Carolina on the list of private institutions eligible for this voucher program but there is one lone state staff person responsible for conducting site visits to ensure that the schools are operating as they say. A fiscal analysis by legislative staff shows that the number of students who will leave the public school system to take advantage of the school voucher will cost the state between $7 million and $23 million over five years.

Don’t be fooled, although titled a “scholarship” program, this program is simply another effort in the continuing effort to undermine the public school system. The voucher program as currently set up in North Carolina provides a voucher recipient with about $4,200 per year, per student. However, the average cost of private elementary, middle and high schools in the state is much higher — ranging from $5,000 to $9,000 a year. Thus, this so called scholarship program cannot help children who come from families with financial challenges.

Proponents of a voucher system have no solid argument, no egalitarian perspective. They simply don’t want their tax money to go to public education. Why?
Those who support a voucher program like to claim they are proponents of choice, that families should have the right to send their kids to any school they wish. They do have that right. They just don’t have the right to do it with public money.

We pay taxes to support our public schools. We do not pay taxes to support private schools with private agendas and objectives. People have the right to run these private schools, and parents have the right to send their children there. They just don’t have the right to expect the rest of us to pay for it.

Our schools need help. We need more teachers’ aides, not less. We need smaller class sizes, not larger. We need better pay for teachers and staff, not pay cuts.

We need all our children to have the right to a good public school education. Vouchers programs, regardless of what they are called, undermine our public school system and should not be allowed.


Gabriel A. Fraire can be reached through his Web site at gabrielfraire.com




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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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