Re: the right to purse excellence

Scott David Gray (sdavid@tiac.net)
Thu, 1 May 1997 15:54:12 -0400 (EDT)

On Thu, 1 May 1997, SwiftRain wrote:

> The people are not going to tommorow, or ever, throw out the entire
> public school system in one huge leap. Vouchers are a step towards
> abandoning central control and funding of the education of children, and
> we can and should support it wholeheartedly without abandoning our
> deeper values.

Here, I think you are mistaken. Consider the economics of a voucher
situation:

Now:
In _most_ parts of the country, private schools are left pretty much
alone. There are notable exceptions, but generally it is _possible_ for
SVS type schools (no curricula, open campus, etc) to exist.

Now imagine that a voucher program passed:

Year 1:
Everyone cheers, and praises the government for freeing up all that money
for use by any school...

Year 2:
The very most selective private schools (the ones that cost $10,000 per
year) will gladly take the $6,000 vouchers and raise their tuition to
$16,000 -- this allows them to remain just as "selective" (keeping the
lower classes out) whilst not economically inconveniencing their rich
clientelle. Well, so lots and lots of tax money is being wasted so all
those headmasters can get themselves nice sportscars and residences in the
carribean. Big deal; we're used to our tax dollars going to more slaries
for the already well-off. People decide that the voucher system is
'worth it'.

Year 3:
Scandal! The national media reports on Mr. and Mrs. Brown, who run the
'Greenback School' in North Carolina. The school finds less discerning
parents to send their kids, and declares that the school will teach their
kids a trade. Indeed, Greenback school _does_ teach them several trades.
They could choose to take Mrs. Brown's 'Sweatshop 101' class, which sells
off the class projects to clothing stores in order to help the school to
afford an 'even higher quality education'. They could also take Mr.
Brown's class in migrant farming, burger flipping 101, or coal mining
(mixing economics, geology and gym)! Where does all this money go to?
Why, to guarantee that the 'Greenback School' can afford top quality
teachers like Mr. and Mrs. Brown, and of course some of the more generous
parents come in to give talks at a guest-lecturer's rate of $300 per hour
(parents who choose to spend their vouchers at Greenback School are
invited to give up to five such guest lectures each year).

Year 4:
Shocked by the 'Greenback School' scandal, congress realizes that it must
clearly define what a school _is_. It does so, in such a manner as to
insure that the Greenback School scandal couldn't happen again.
Amoung the new congretional requirements for a school to operate:
1. All of the paid staff in the school are licenced teachers, with a
bachelors degree in education.
2. The school does not encourage or allow its paying clientelle (the
voucher students) to spend any part of the school day away from the
school grounds.
3. The school insures that during the school day, no more than two hours
(for lunch, recess and travelling from class to class) is spent outside
of organized school activities.
4. The school cannot profit from any activity of the students.
5. The school must explicitly spell out its curriculum, and
aggressively pursue it.
6. All schools must present their students with semi-annual tests in
reading, writing, arithmetic and American history. If more than 20% of
the students fail the tests for their age group, the school will be
closed or put under the stewardship of the public school committee.
7. The school present a curriculum suited for the needs of each
different age group which it claims to serve. That is, it must design
and defend a curricula for first graders which is different than that for
second graders, which is different from that for third graders, etc.

Sudbury Valley, by these criterion, is forced to close its doors.
Without question.

See... The problem is this... The economics of a voucher system is very
like the economics of the College textbook industry... The clients (the
students at the school) have no choice about which to buy, and the person
who selects the product (the parents or the professors) don't actually pay
a dime (the parents have these 'vouchers' that can only be used for
schools, and the professors get gratis copies of all the textbooks).

> --
> SwiftRain <swifty@elision.com> -- http://www.elision.com/sr/
>
>

--Scott David Gray
reply to: sdavid@tiac.net
http://www.tiac.net/users/sdavid