Friday Freakout: Parent vs Parent

A North Carolina judge recently ruled the state’s voucher program unconstitutional. Today we have two freakouts from two very different parents commenting on the News & Observer article, “NC to appeal ruling banning taxpayer money for private schools.”

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 10.37.00 AM

On the positive side, it is wonderful Ms. Forbes is involved in her children’s education and they happen to fit well in a public setting. The downside is that most of what she calls facts are actually assumptions. But there’s a silver lining to her comments: She neatly packaged a lot of the initial questions/issues people have with school vouchers, which we are happy to address.
  1. Correct.
  2. Actually, our writer found – in less than five minutes with a Google search – a school that charges $3,880 for one student, which includes tuition, an application fee, a registration fee, and the maximum textbook fee. If a student needs after-school care, the maximum total increases to $4,430. A voucher parent would only need to make up $230 for the whole year. If that’s not feasible, the school works with parents in financial hardship. Most schools we’ve encountered offer financial aid services and go to great lengths to work with families in need. The fact is such schools exist. That said, isn’t it telling that thousands of low-income parents are doing whatever it takes to ensure their kids can attend a better educational setting, even if that means stretching already thin funds thinner or seeking financial assistance from other sources?
  3. For many it might not be any more of an expense than normal. Many parents take turns carpooling. Some find a school that’s on a route to work. Others use public transportation. In the end, thousands of parents already using vouchers were making transportation work without complaint. Most likely would consider any accompanied inconveniences, minor or major, worth the benefit of the education their child receives.
  4. Perhaps we haven’t explained this well in the past. To be clear, voucher families don’t leave their previous schools in the hope of finding an alternative. Rather, parents and students find a suitable voucher-accepting school first. When their child is admitted, they apply and are sent a voucher to take to the school to officially enroll their child.
  5. This is not a fact, but an assumption. Regardless, why would parents choose a school that doesn’t have the proper services or equipment necessary to educate their child? That is why many families eligible for vouchers don’t use them – and that’s okay! Although more than 27,000 Florida students with special needs are going to private schools using a voucher program, far more students with special needs eligible for vouchers chose to stay in their public schools. And there actually are schools that specialize in educating children with exceptional needs that have opened in direct response to the demand created by voucher families.
  6. Yes, private schools have the autonomy to hire teachers from myriad walks of life, not necessarily teachers who only graduate from a college of education and take a certification test. That is not to say private schools are lax in their hiring and dismissal practices. If private schools want to attract parents, they must have great educators. The only difference between public schools and private schools in this respect is the fact private schools have the freedom to hire a teacher based on their own criteria rather than a list created by legislators and bureaucrats.
  7. Wrong. The National School Lunch Program is available in nonprofit private schools.
  8. Not all private schools require uniforms, but uniforms have been proved to save many families money. Children are constantly growing, so parents will have to buy clothes either way. With uniforms, they buy a few sets that last them all school year, sometimes multiple years. Furthermore, students don’t feel social pressure to wear certain clothes for status, and parents don’t feel pressure to buy more and more clothes to help their children fit in. Oh, and public schools can require that students wear uniforms too.
  9. Perhaps. But, again, many public schools require their students bring their own supplies. If Ms. Forbes is concerned parents cannot afford textbooks then she should be in favor of raising the voucher amount, the maximum size of which is 51 percent of what those children would have received on average in public schools.
  10. This is absolutely false. See this report comprising the state regulations on both private schools and private school choice programs.
  11. Some do. Public schools do too.
  12. This is an exaggeration, but still, it happens in public schools as well. When a child breaks the rules to such a degree that the administration determines they should not remain in the school to ensure the wellbeing of other students, the student is expelled and often referred to an alternative school. If private schools are expelling kids for minor rule breaking, they aren’t likely to attract or retain families.
  13. True, but public magnet schools can also reject a student’s application if they aren’t a fit for the school’s curriculum, teaching style, etc. And traditional public schools turn away students all the time if their ZIP Codes are not zoned for a particular school. The point of a school choice system is to increase the number of diverse educational options and empower parents to match those schools and services with the needs of their children.
  14. This is our favorite of Ms. Forbes’ “facts.” Yes, private schools don’t have to spend all their time prepping kids for a test. And many parents see that as a good thing. Private school teachers have the freedom to teach the way they know is effective, not the way demanded by legislators and bureaucrats. Public schools are actually fighting for this same privilege for their own teachers!
To wrap, Ms. Forbes says, “Most private schools provide a good education, but some do not.” The exact same can be said for many public schools. But, again, the point of school choice is to allow parents, like Ms. Green below, to determine what a “good education” looks like for their child. Their choices might be different than Ms. Forbes’ opinion; they might be the same. Regardless, we shouldn’t freak out over such diversity. We should celebrate it and, as Ms. Green says, let it “blossom.”
Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 10.36.38 AM