Thursday, June 4, 2009

School Reforms on the Brink

From The Wall Street Journal

School Reforms on the Brink
The empire strikes back in Milwaukee and NYC.

The education establishment and its political allies employ multiple methods to keep kids trapped in rotten schools. One tactic is to use control of school boards to prevent or limit the creation of charter schools. Another is to smother existing voucher programs with rules and red tape. Real world examples are currently playing out in Milwaukee and New York City.

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program provides vouchers for some 20,000 low-income, mostly minority children to attend private schools. Because the 20-year-old program polls above 60% with voters, and even higher among minorities, killing it outright would be unpopular. Instead, Democratic Governor Jim Doyle wants to reduce funding and pass "reforms" designed to regulate the program to death. The goal is to discourage private schools from enrolling voucher students and thus force kids to return to unionized public schools.

To that end, Democrats in the state legislature voted last week to cut per-pupil payments to private schools by $165 while increasing public school spending by $400 per student. Taxpayer support for students in the program is only $6,607 per student to begin with, which is less that half of the $13,468 for students in Milwaukee public schools.

They also add this:

The irony is that satisfaction and enrollment at Milwaukee public schools has steadily declined despite these very policies that choice opponents want to impose on successful private schools. A recent evaluation of the Milwaukee choice program found that its high school graduation rate was 85%, compared to 58% for students in the city's public schools. Between 1994 and 2008, the voucher program saved taxpayers more than $180 million. Yet opponents insist these schools need additional regulations to make them more like the public schools that cost more and produce inferior results.

This program is entrenched and popular, so they seek to cut it by stealth. You can simply regulate anything to death. They are increasing the costs of compliance and decreasing the subsidy at the same time. And the more demands you make on a private school, the less private it becomes.

The biggest scare of vouchers to libertarians is that the government will insert itself into private education and corrupt the good schools that we have left. While I have always supported vouchers I have always been aware and afraid of that unintended consequense.

The teachers unions and their allies are in power, and choice advocates are getting a bitter taste of just what that means. The DC voucher program has been ended for all intents and purposes. They will play out the string with the students currently enrolled but nobody new is allowed into the pipeline. Now they are coming after Milwaukee and the Charter Schools of NYC. It is sad.

And this from the party that "Is for the Children". Sphere: Related Content

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