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Won't Vouch for Vouchers

Thursday, January 26, 2012
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I guess we're moving away from life cycle events after all.  But that just goes to show: Miriam's Advice Well is here for whatever's on your mind, personal, political or otherwise.  Maybe I need to add some new categories...  Either way, keep the questions coming!

Dear Miriam,

What do you think of school vouchers? I am against them. If someone wants to send their kids to private school...let them pay for it...What do you say?

Signed,
Won't Vouch for Vouchers

Dear Vouch,

On the one hand, I am a huge supporter of public schools. On the other hand, Jewish day schools are very important to large segments of our community. On a third hand, I used to teach in an urban charter school and have seen first-hand much of what can go wrong in a less-than-completely-regulated school situation. On a fourth hand, many public schools are failing. On a fifth hand, I would argue that that's because of misdirected funds, undue focus on standardized testing and lack of support for teachers. On a sixth hand, if teachers had this many hands, they would have an easier time giving attention to all of their students and helping them to succeed.

The push for vouchers and other forms of school choice comes from parents wanting what's best for their children. While that's hard to argue with, when it comes to where the government spends their money, I believe in looking out for the utilitarian educational needs of all children.

If your question were about where to send your child to school, there would be other factors to look at: the quality of the public school in your neighborhood, any special needs your child might have, religious considerations, etc.  But you asked about vouchers in general, and despite a nagging little voice that tells me that public schools will never work for everyone, my heart aches for a time when all children will be guaranteed free access to high quality schools, and until we've fixed all the problems with public education, I'm against vouchers directing government funds towards private education.

Though I'm no longer a classroom teacher, I am a parent, and I know in a few years we will have potentially tough choices to make about where to send our daughter to school.  I also know that through the efforts of groups such as The Friends of Chester Arthur School, parents and communities are banding together here in Philadelphia to work towards improving the quality of our public schools. I don't begrudge anyone the choices they make for their children's education, but I do hope we can all work together to make sure all children get the quality of education they deserve.

Be well,
Miriam

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