Monday, April 30, 2012

Editorial Boards Endorse Education Reform in the Form of School Choice

As journalists report on education reform initiatives across the country—the political battles, implementation of new programs, and results—the other side of newspapers are sounding strong support for school choice programs.  In both left-leaning and right-leaning papers, editorial boards are endorsing these programs.

Today, The Chicago Tribune published an editorial praising Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s education reform package recently signed into law, which expanded the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program statewide. 

In “Momentum for School Choice,” the Tribune Editorial Board writes:

The Bayou State is part of a "Top this!" competition among many states to open public schools to competition. Indiana has set up an expansive voucher program that covers students in families that have incomes below $61,000 a year. Wisconsin has expanded school choice programs in Milwaukee and Racine. Ohio will give tuition vouchers to as many as 60,000 students by 2013.

And Illinois? Left in the dust.
A bill that would have offered private school tuition support to as many as 30,000 Chicago kids came close to passing a couple of years ago. The latest version is languishing in the Senate assignments committee.

And that’s not the first time the Tribune Editorial Board advocated vouchers.  In July 2011, the editorial board wrote:

Major school reforms are unspooling in as many as a dozen states, including Illinois. These laws bring the promise of a transformation just as dramatic as — forgive us — anything that Decepticons could manage. (Ask your kids.)
It starts with giving parents more options about where their children can go to school.
The American Federation for Children, a Washington D.C.-based school choice advocacy group, dubs 2011 "The year of school choice."

But Chicago isn't the only place where newspapers are taking notice of the importance of voucher programs.

Both The Washington Times and The Washington Post editorial boards have long been supporters of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which helps students from low-income families attend the school of their parents’ choice.  Just this month, the Post again attacked President Obama for zeroing out funding for the program and praised the research and supporters of this vital program:

Why cap the number at the 1,615 students currently enrolled when the program has accommodated larger numbers (1,903 in 2007-08, for example)? Does the administration really want to send the message — much like the one delivered in 2009 when Democrats tried to kill the vouchers — that there is not much of a future for the program?

Surely, it shouldn’t be among the president’s priorities to single out for attack a tiny federal program that not only works — in the judgment of federal evaluators — but also enjoys bipartisan support. If it is, we trust that Mr. Boehner would step in, as he did last year, to save a program that D.C.’s poorest families value for their children.

Here are some of the other major newspaper editorial boards that are endorsing school choice:

But choice is essential to driving reform because it erodes the union-dominated monopoly that assigns children to schools based on where they live. Unions defend the monopoly to protect jobs for their members, but education should above all serve students and the larger goal of a society in which everyone has an opportunity to prosper.

This year's choice gains are a major step forward, and they are due in large part to Republican gains in last fall's elections combined with growing recognition by many Democrats that the unions are a reactionary force that is denying opportunity to millions. The ultimate goal should be to let the money follow the children to whatever school their parents want them to attend.

It's morally wrong to use a student's demographic background – poor, minority, social standing – as an excuse to offer him or her a substandard education. I don't care what neighborhood or background a child comes from; if teachers and administrators are truly the professionals they profess to be, they need to come up with a way of educating every student to his or her fullest potential. Right now, that's not happening.

Vouchers, and the competition they would spur, would help force failing schools in Terrebonne, Lafourche and across Louisiana to get better or shut down. If public schools excel, none of their students will qualify for a voucher under Jindal's plan.
Supporters of the status quo will find all kinds of excuses for why one public school or another is unable to achieve excellence. Haven't we heard enough excuses?

The case for vouchers is obvious: There are about 150 schools in this commonwealth that have consistently underachieved. Some of those schools are in the Harrisburg School District — mere feet from the state Capitol. 

Any middle-class family would simply move to a better school district or send their children to a private school. That is not an option for lower-income families.
                                                                        The Patriot News
- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

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