Unification News for January, 1997

The School Vouchers Debate

by Rev. John Kung-Queens, NY

I am sure someone with more data and eloquence could refute what Bob Chase, president of NEA, in Washington DC, said on the NY Post's Oct. 9 op-ed page better than I. But I felt so incensed by his lies that I cannot wait for someone else.

The NEA put so much money into advertisements to distort the facts and frighten the people the last time the issue was up for referendum in California, it was no wonder people did not vote for it. It is a testimony to the strength and endurance of truth that the "voucher" idea is still very popular with parents who about the quality of (or lack of) education their children are getting and with fiscally-wise parents who know how much money is being spent per public school child and what they are getting in return.

I agree with Bob that no children should go to school where the roof leaks. But what caused that problem? Bob wants us to believe that vouchers will take away money needed to fix the roof. He's just using scare tactics. The public school system gets more money per child than any other school system, including the Catholic. Here is another scare tactic: whenever there is a cut in budget, the NEA and the media like to show with great drama the effects on school lunch. Instead of a serving of vegetable, kids get ketchup! So much money is siphoned off that what's left for kids can't even buy them adequate school supplies. There is hardly any accountability in this school system.

Bob says the voucher system doesn't cover total tuition. This scares people into thinking they must pay additional money out of their pocket with the voucher system. Also this argument is used to show that those people who have money (the term "some" used by Bob, supposedly means only the richer parents) would be able to afford the extra expense for private school and the poor parents would not. This is discrimination!

Studies have shown that private school costs a fraction of the money allotted for each public school student. Given a fair amount, parents can send their children to private schools without additional expense. The fact is that to demand a voucher equal to what the government gives the school for each child would be opposed by the NEA. So to appease the NEA we compromise and say: let the parents have half of the money that the government allocates to each child. The other half can go to the school system and support the bureaucracy. This sounds reasonable. What do you think the NEA says? No. Because if the parents were given a choice (hey, I thought this is a democracy), they might choose a private school over a public. But that's just it. If the public school is not doing a good job, the parents should be allowed to choose a private school. But if the public school had good teachers and was doing a good job, the parents would choose that public school. This way, the law of the marketplace will weed out incompetent and unsatisfactory schools, and schools which fulfill parents' wishes will flourish. This will also solve the problem of whether or not to teach various "sexual" education topics, like "condoms" or "abstinence". Parents may then be able to select the school of their choice which teaches subjects they support and not things they object to.

Taxes will not go up. If less money is needed to educate the same number of students, taxes will go down. The money used to transport to school those students who have now transferred to private schools, is money saved. There are no hidden costs.

The liberals and the NEA would like you to believe that there is already school choice, like sending your child to a Magnet School or another school through applying for variance. But that is not school choice. You will still be stuck in the same high-priced, low- performance education system.

We will not be supporting another school system. The number of students does not suddenly increase when we institute the vouchers. We are actually decreasing the administrative work because the public school is handling fewer children. The students who have gone to the private schools are being taken care of by the private school or the parents themselves. No one is asking more tax dollars from the government. This is another instance of the NEA trying to scare us, the taxpayers. Oh, no, if we have to support two entire school systems, it's going to cost us more tax dollars. But we are not as stupid as Bob Chase would like us to be. Then he says "no extra money" will be funneled to those schools which so desperately need taxpayer support. This was said to show the NEA has compassion. If the NEA has so much compassion for certain suffering schools, let them push for more accountability for every penny spent and see how much there is left over to support these schools.

The government has already allocated ample amounts. It is because the school system is a failed system that there is little left for the students after siphoning off so much for its bureaucracy.

Vouchers are real reforms in a system which is incompetent, bloated with bureaucracy, excessive waste, no accountability, and which is first and foremost not giving students the education they need and deserve. Parents pay with tax dollars for the education budget which the government gives public schools. It is time we have some say in it. Under the voucher system, no parent is discriminated against. All parents would have the right to pay for whatever kind of school and education they want. It will not be for a privileged few at the expense of many. Bob Chase is lying and he knows it. It is a question of protecting their jobs. There are many good teachers but there are too many in the school system who allow self-serving decisions to be made. When was the last time you heard a teacher was fired for being incompetent? The NEA refuse testing of their teachers to see if they are competent.

I can't believe Bob Chase doesn't know these facts, but he chooses to confuse the issue and lie to the parents so that he can protect teachers' jobs, including his own, at the expense of the students. If given a choice, the NEA is afraid that parents will take their children out of the public school en masse, because they know they are doing a relatively substandard job and have subjected the students to controversial social and political agendas. All manner of social engineering has been foisted upon our children to the point where the three R's are no longer the priority. Political and social correctness is.

Bob talks about serious solutions to quality education. But he has none. Meanwhile the standard of education and student behavior keeps spiraling down. 

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