SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN OHIO & THE MONEY LEFT BEHIND
By Vin Suprynowicz
However, that support shifts to a hefty 2 ti 1 opposition to voucher programs when the same 1,011 respondents are asked "if they still support the idea if it takes money from public schools," the poll-takers reported this week.
It's disappointing that many Americans haven't thought this issue through, But this "push" question, which evokes the image of run-down public schools drained of their resources by fleeing "voucher kids," is also seriously misleading.
In 1995, at the time the Cleveland, Ohio, voucher program was launched, the city's public schools were failing dismally, despite public spending of $6,195 per pupil, not counting debt service on the school buildings. (The dropout rate was more than twice the state average; only 9 percent of Cleveland ninth graders could pass the basic proficiency test; and students were statistically more likely to become victims of crime than to graduate on time with basic proficiency, according to the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ohio's Ashland University..)
Endorsing the 6-year-old pilot program in inner-city Cleveland, which now allows parents to opt out of one of the worst-rated public school systems in the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late June that voucher programs like Cleveland's are constitutional if they provide parents a choice among a range of religious and secular schools.
But does Cleveland's program "drain funds" from the public schools? Far from it.
The new Ohio law provides voucher recipients with a fixed percentage of the tuition charged by private schools, up to a maximum of $1,875 if family income is at or above 200 percent of the poverty line, and up to a maximum of $2.250 for students whose family income is below 200 percent of the poverty line.
But remember, Ohio taxpayers were previously paying those public schools $6,195 (not counting debt service), which means eaching fleeing "voucher kid" leaves behind some $4,000 in the public school kitty, now available to increase per pupil expenditures on the children who remain behind.
"Draining money from the public schools" would be a legitimate concern only if vouchers handed parents as much or more tax money as was previously being allocated for their kids' attendance in the local public schools. But no tax-funded voucher program now in operation does that. So, on balance, those parents continue to pay taxes to support schools they no longer use (kind of like the whopping "exit tax" that Socialist regimes used to charge skilled inmates escaping to freedom), but nonetheless an actual gain in per pupil funding for the failing public schools.
So, given the state of education in America's largest cities, why do the teachers unions vehemently oppose school choice? (In the court challenge to the Cleveland voucher plan, for instance, the Ohio Federation of Teachers [OFT] is a named plaintiff; OFT's national parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers [AFT], produced a skewed study attempting to malign the effectiveness of the Cleveland voucher program; an attorney from the Ohio Education Association served as counsel in the case; and attorneys from the National Education Association [NEA] provided significant legal assistance.)
Robert Alt, formerly of the Heritage Foundation, writing for the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs (http://www.ashbrook.org) provides an answer to the question as to why the teachers unions vehemently oppose school choice. Alt explains:
"The answer is not found in their legal briefs, which argue against public funds for sectarian institutions. Union oppo- sition to private vouchers in New Jersey makes this clear. "Rather, the answer arises from NLRB vs. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, a 1979 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared that schools operated by churches to teach both religious and secular subjects are not within the jurisdic- tion of the National Labor Relations Act. Accordingly, church-run schools need not recognize unions as exclu- sive bargaining agents for their teachers. "If school choice proposals are implemented and upheld by the courts, (union) membership and dues would neces- sarily decline as students and teachers shift to sectarian schools that are virtually immune to unionization. Union opposition to school choice is simply an effort to maintain a collective bargaining monopoly, even if that monopoly comes at the expense of children's education."
A Practical Guide to Homeschooling
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the daily newspaper, LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, as well as editor and publisher of the monthly newsletter, PRIVACY ALERT. He is author of the book, THE BALLARD OF CARL DREGA.
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