The ed school dean at the University of Wisconsin, Julie Underwood, argued against school vouchers last week, saying school choice would turn education into a “private good.” She concluded, “If you believe education is a public good, you are not likely to support vouchers.”
Underwood is misusing the term “public good,” which, in economics, has a specific meaning to which education does not apply. She probably meant to say education has a public benefit, which is very true. But that same public benefit would still exist if there were no public schools and the government paid the tuition for all students to attend private schools.
Vouchers, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts and charter schools would all provide kids an education, which in turn, benefits the general public. We do just as much with higher education where we provide tax-subsidized student loans and publicly funded education scholarships for students attending public or private universities.
Grade: Needs Improvement
In 2005, Ann Duplessis was a Democratic state senator in Louisiana who helped derail a school voucher bill (despite urgent pleas from a few other Democrats). But within a few years, she had a change of heart, and by 2008, she was sponsoring a voucher bill. Today she is president of the Louisiana Federation of Children, a pro-voucher group.
According to an interview in The Advocate, “I had to educate myself,” she said. “And as I did I began to see the deplorable conditions” of many inner-city schools. She realized something different was needed.
Duplessis also began to see the wonderful job New Orleans charter schools were doing with the same population of students.
The Texas State Board of Education voted 9-6 to deny the Great Hearts Academies the right to expand its school into the Dallas area (the school will open in San Antonio next fall and has 15 schools in Phoenix). The state board denied the application because Great Hearts enrolls more white and affluent students than the surrounding Phoenix metro where it operates.
Great Hearts offers a classic liberal arts education which isn’t as appealing to minorities as career academies, but minorities do in fact choose these schools. For example, at Teleos Prep in downtown Phoenix, nearly half the students are black. Great Hearts’ mostly white and affluent student population in Phoenix seems to occur because most of its campuses are in whiter, more affluent suburbs. The fact is, when given the option of a classical liberal arts education, some minority parents do choose these schools. The mostly white Texas State Board of Education won’t let Dallas parents even have that choice.
Grade: Needs Improvement