11 November 2007

Weekend Conversation - Referendum 1 & School Vouchers - Part 2

Yesterday we posted one part of a discussion thread from cougarboard.com about Referendum 1 and school vouchers. This post includes the rest of the thread.

(cougarboard.com question/contention in italics, OL&L response in regular type):

There are a lot of good reasons for vouchers, but I cannot see that vouchers will help motivate people who cannot or will not find their way to school. I wholeheartedly support vouchers, but I don't see where the race card fits in.

It's a valid question, and the answer is, that everywhere vouchers have been tried--Milwaukee, Washington DC, Florida--they are overwhelmingly used by minority students and have resulted in higher test scores and grad rates.

The same is true of Utah. Utah public schools have about a 13% minority population. Utah private schools are around 25%. Even without vouchers, the parents of these students recognize that a private education--for whatever reason--offers their students, their children, a greater chance to learn and eventually graduate.

If it works, it should be used. Practical solutions should be the end of public spending. If you have proof it will work, then all the better.

There is definitely another side to the Milwaukee program, which has been around for 17 years. It isn't all roses.

I'm for vouchers, but there are still some serious issues with it.

Voucher programs aren't perfect. But unlike public schools, they are willing and able to change and evolve to respond to the needs of their students. Schools and their overlords, teachers unions (the real bad guy here) resist any attempt to change or improve *their* territory.

Simply sticking with the status quo of public education is the classic example of insanity: same behavior and we expect a different result.

It's time for change.

Check the stats -- the large % of those failing will be boys. For most of them it's not that they aren't capable --- They simply won't/don't do the work. And their parents don't care enough to MAKE them do the work. So they sit there for 4 years, take up space, cause disruptions, waste money and then drop out as a jr. or sr. My wife's a teacher (not in UT, thank goodness) and sees this day in and day out. Kids that refuse to turn in any work at all. It's much more common than one would think. They can't be forced to work and the school districts are not allowed to kick them out. Sad.

If someone told your wife that they would pay her an additional $5k per year if she could figure out a way to turn these "problem students" into "productive students," do you think she'd be interested? How about an additional $10k?

All teachers and all schools are not created equal. Some of them figure out ways to teach these students. A voucher system would allow them the flexibility and set up the incentives and penalties to encourage them to succeed in finding ways to teach problem students. Simply saying that it is the parent's problem and can't/wont be corrected is a cop out.

I don't know, maybe someone will set up an Army run high school with strict rules, codes, punishment, etc. Maybe that type of system would work? I don't know. But you know what? I don't have to know. All we can do is support a system that allows people to be creative in solving the problem. Public education doesn't do that.

For example, teachers unions in Utah refuse merit pay. In other words, whether they teach well or not, they are compensated similarly.

I know, I know, many teachers teach out of the goodness of their hearts(!) and insist that their teaching has nothing to do with money. Right. Teachers are the only segment of our population to whom money means nothing. I suppose if you believe that then you will also believe all the other anti-Referendum 1 drivel.

There are good teachers out there and they should be getting paid double or triple what they're getting paid now. But there are even more bad teachers and they, in turn, should be fired. Neither one of those two things happens under the current system.

If you have tips, questions, comments, suggestions, or requests for subscription only articles, email us at lybberty@gmail.com.

No comments: