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Vouchers would do more harm than good for education

January 30, 2014

With our country’s future largely dependent upon the education of the present generation of school age children, why then does the “small-government political party” not want to at least provide a future generation of well educated leaders?
All the finger pointing and double talk being bantered about, while blaming everyone except the administration sitting in Oklahoma City for the failures in the school system, makes it hard for the average person to come to any conclusion. How many of you know that there is now – and has been for a while – “public charter schools,” authorized to coexist within your tax funded schools? Funding those further drains the budget required to suitably operate a school. While being a branch of a school’s curriculum, there is no hands-on oversight by school administration. It serves as a substitute for home teaching.
With the inception of the Internet and a profusion of virtual higher education schools, it was inevitable that American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) would become the forerunner in developing regulations, which our elected officials would approve, without input from the education field. ALEC’s move into this arena is already showing up in Oklahoma with proposed voucher system, “Education Savings Account Act” (ASAA), House Bill 3398.
To sugar-coat its attempt to raid Public School Budgets for alternative educational programs, ALEC proposes issuing State Vouchers to supplement a proposed “paid-by-the student” tuition.
However, the formula for arriving at the dollar amount of each voucher is computed so that the families which need it most will still have to come up with funds that, in all probability, will be beyond their means. At the same time, families with adequate funds to privately pay the full tuition would also receive vouchers of identical amounts. So much for helping those living at or below the poverty level. Children of low-income families will still have to attend the “failing public school” at which they are currently enrolled! The formula for the voucher system is very hard to comprehend and explain in the space of this article.

Trying to improve the educational opportunities for Oklahoma’s children is admirable but needs to be realistic. Removing monies from the State Department of Education to set up a voucher program for students whose parents cannot afford the balance of the tuition is an effort in futility!
The aforesaid vouchers are scheduled to be used in all educational facilities – public, non-profit and for-profit schools. Yet, Oklahoma law stipulates that participating private schools cannot have any rules regarding testing accountability, of moneys spent or standards imposed upon them. The issuance of vouchers incorporates the same system currently implemented in for-profit charter schools. Those subject institutions may claim any level of student educational success they desire because there are no accountability requirements.
Due to the lack of regulation on private schools (other than instruction in the four core areas of study) neither the state nor parents have any idea of how well those schools perform. Instituting a voucher program to hasten rapidly expanding for-profit private schools is a matter which needs additional input from professional educators, not CEO’s of large corporations and/or partially informed legislators. Currently, the only section of our educational system truly accountable for expenditures is public schools – whose allocated funds are being slowly “shared” while distribution formulas used are 40+ years old!
Oklahoma should be adequately funding our public education system rather than tearing it apart. Without the ability to establish a tax base solely for distribution to public school districts, our schools are facing an insurmountable handicap which they may not be able to overcome. Affixing more sales taxes (on lower income parents working for minimum wage) will not provide the funds needed to maintain a solid and progressive curriculum. Our public school students have a right to the best education of any child in our great nation!

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