Monday’s Mtg: School Vouchers – Solution or Scam?

Public school vouchers are a conservative idea to use taxpayer funds to subsidize students that want to move from one school to another, usually poor students.  They are very controversial, and they’re being implemented in a bunch of states.  Vouchers may be all about giving parents more choices for their kids’ education, helping trapped students to escape failing schools, and improving public education by spurring more competition between them.  Or, maybe vouchers are a trick by conservatives to defund public education, shovel public money to private religious and for-profit schools, undermine teachers’ unions, and reinforce the idea that they care about the well-being of poor minority kids.

At any rate, the voucher movement (see a link below for the history) seemed dead in the water just a few years ago, but now it’s back.  President Bush de-emphasized vouchers and focused on high-stakes testing (No Child Left Behind), creating more charter schools, and other reforms.  Democrats joined him on some of these.  Now, however, vouchers are back with a vengeance, and the education wars may be heating up again.  Mitt Romney’s education proposals were quite radical; basically he would have tried to pass a universal school voucher program.  At the state level, Tea Party-oriented governments have revived vouchers, and programs are underway or in the approval phase in a dozen states.

I think I’ve got a lot of good links below to get you up to speed on the voucher topic.  So, on Monday, I’ll just briefly explain what school vouchers are and where they are being used, and then I will outline the major pros and cons as I understand them.  FYI, unknown to many, major education reforms already are being implemented throughout the United States, and some of the things they’re doing sound pretty exciting.  The first link provides a good rundown of the three major areas of reform.  Reading this would lay a good foundation for any future discussions we have about education.

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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –

  1. What are the main areas of education reform these days?  What’s being done and where do liberals and conservatives usually stand on these ideas?
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  2. What are school vouchers?  Where did the idea come from How do they work and where have they been implemented?
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  3. What are the arguments for and against vouchers?  What ulterior motives might be behind both support for and opposition to vouchers?
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  4. What is the evidence to date that school vouchers work as advertised?
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  5. What do you think of other conservative education reform ideas, such as charter schools, teacher incentive pay and easier hiring and firing, high-stakes testing, local control of standards, etc.?  What about liberal education reform ideas, like the common core curriculum?
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  6. Can we all agree on anything?

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LINKS –

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Let’s also debrief on the premiere of Bill’s San Diego Debate Club.  He did a great job setting it up, but maybe we have ideas for improvement.

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One response

  1. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    I didn’t get a chance last night–but I’d like to propose that we visit a school as our next “field trip,” if this is possible.

    We could visit a Hi-Tech High–I know they welcome visitors; and possibly another, more conventional school, to get a grip on what really is happening.

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