More on the problem with vouchers

I saw this on Glass City Jungle earlier this week, but here it is again, courtesy of my What’s Up With School Funding newsletter.

Go ahead and make charter schools and privitization of education – as a general proposition – panaceas to everything. Then tell me how supposedly fiscally conservative-minded politicians can possibly support what’s described in the Blade.

6 thoughts on “More on the problem with vouchers

  1. Paul – I think your observations are definitely worth talking and thinking about and being used as a possible paradigm for the discussion of how to do better with educating ourselves, kids and adults.However, i don’t know that what you describe as being the best way to move the system (by parents and kids making choices) is realistic when other parents and kids – teachers for example and their children – are involved. Because they will be pushing a certain way too, based on their interest as employees, no?Likewise, employers push on the system both as parents and employers in need of workers.And then what about folks who use a range of criteria for judging what makes a school good and what is a good education? I know just in my little corner of the world, I frequently disagree with parents about what the priorities should be for their kids – partly because kids vary so greatly.So – I don’t know – I think this idea you posit needs some finetuning, certainly before I would rule it OUT, but definitely before I would rule it in too.

  2. There’s an interesting article in National Geographic this month which talks about the notion of ‘collective intelligence.’ Species like ants, bees, schooling fish, flocking birds, and others accomplish things as a collective which would seem to require great intelligence. But there is no master decision maker in an ant or bee colony — the aggregate behavior is the sum of what individuals do based on very local stimuli and collective instinct.Adam Smith’s notion of the ‘invisible hand’ is the parallel in economics. The economy of the entire planet can be directed solely by the behaviors of individuals acting in their own best interest. The purest of the Libertarians would say this is how government should be.The folks at the other end of the spectrum say no, society is better of if decision making is centralized with the smartest people in the land. Unfortunately, the leaders end up being the most powerful, not the smartest.Some say ants and bees are a great model of communism. Thousands of workers collaborating for the common good. Science would suggest otherwise. Ants and bees are perhaps the most democratic of all creatures.It’s with the higher species that leader/follower societies develop(apes, canines, felines), and it’s physical dominance not smarts that gets you the job. Seems to me that a pride of lions is the best animal model for communism: the boss does little to support the society, but gets to eat first when the worker class makes the kill.So what?All I’m saying is that I believe, deep in my heart, that we’ll get better schools if we truly give parents and kids a choice. Let each family decide what is best for them individually, and the result will be a steady improvement of the whole. After a century of increasing centralization (including the current attempt to centralize funding decisions at the state level), we have just about the least democratic school organization one can imagine.It might take a decade or two to get results with an open enrollment (aka voucher) system. The chances are slim that we have the patience to find out.But I’m not giving up. If I can collect the 150 signatures necessary, I’ll be on the ballot for school board this November…PL

  3. Okay – I won’t debate that an unairconditioned setting can be a barrier to one performing at one’s best.But let’s look at the priority of the environment’s conditions, in an educational setting, that need improvement.How about better adapting the school day to the child development stage of teenagers? Some cities in the state of Wisconsin have done that and with great success. I’d try that here too.

  4. Paul states, “We got along just fine without air conditioning. Few of us had homes or cars with air conditioning either.” I wonder if that sort of excuse was also used when they introduced central heating, toilets, running water, electricity, and telephones in the schools. Make those kids suffer, the more suffering the better! It will be good for them, by gum! Sigh…….Most of today’s students are used to air conditioning in their homes, cars, and environment in general. (places of worship, shopping, restaurants, etc.) Their bodies are used to air conditioning; and it greatly helps allergies and asthma that so many students seem to have, which both seem to me to be more common than when I was a student. I can tell you from my teaching experience (almost 17 years) that those old, multi-storied buildings are extremely hot on the upper floors. I don’t remember the temperatures that were measured in the upper floors of such buildings, but I can tell you that it was very, very hot – much hotter than a reasonable person would believe is an acceptable work or learning environment. If the temps didn’t surpass 100 F, they certainly approached 100 F. (But I do believe that they did surpass 100 F.) Based upon my experience, student learning may suffer from lack of air conditioning. Students may start getting headaches and stomach aches. They get lethargic from the heat. What good can come from making the students – and adults – suffer? Really, what IS the point of making them suffer? Why do people insist that students suffer from their environment, and the adults who teach and work with those students suffer as well? Isn’t this the 21st century? Hey, those old-timers got used to toilets and light switches; why can’t we get used to air conditioned schools? It isn’t as though I’m suggesting aromatherapy!

  5. But Paul – you can’t go all pessimist on me. I think of you who is someone who continues to try and take his in the trenches experience and make it make everything work. Seriously. I’ve really appreciated when you’ve pointed things out to me that I wouldn’t eitherwise have seen (esp. when I’m not being proper, fair or otherwise just plain nice).So – come on – you can do it. We can do it.How do we get the system to not pervert otherwise good ideas for experiments??

  6. This whirlwind around ‘vouchers’ is just one more case of the label staying constant while definitions change.I truly don’t know what the heck a ‘voucher’ is any more. I have in my mind the system Milton Freedman described a couple of decades ago, but to my knowledge no one is advocating what the good professor defined.Instead we have what we always get in politics these days. A good idea weighed down by the tons of crap hung on it by every lobbyist imaginable. The end result is a grotesque perversion of the original concept, ripe with opportunities for some particular set of groups to suck cash out of the government.Maybe we should make lawmakers write out legislation in longhand with quill pens like the Founding Fathers. I bet we wouldn’t have things like a 1,200 page immigration bill which is fully understood by no one.So what is the right solution for undoing the resegregation of Ohio’s metro areas, and the failing state of the urban school systems? More money? They already have among the highest per-pupil spending in the state. It’s not a money problem.Better teachers? Not clear. I bet there are plenty of first rate teachers in the urban schools, but who knows? Maybe only the really committed ones are left, and the rest of the good ones bail out to the suburbs at first chance.Nicer buildings? Buildings have to be good enough, but lots of buildings we call dumps today are comparable to the 100 yr old building in which I attended junior high. We got along just fine without air conditioning. Few of us had homes or cars with air conditioning either.I keep hearing what won’t work.What will?PL

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