Freedom of Choice
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:18 AM [+]
I stumbled upon THIS website that is overflowing with interesting forums, debates, and lectures. I'm presently watching John Stossel discuss his new (at that time) book HERE. Cato, as most of you know, is a libertarian think tank and Stossel has become a rather vocal proponent of libertarian thinking. In this forum he talks a great deal about schools and freedom of choice and free market competition. I find many of his points convincing.
In looking through the web, one will find that there is clearly a great deal of debate about school voucher programs and particularly with regard to specific instances in which their trial has been evaluated. The opinions seem to range from wildly successful to no benefit at all. But in my mind, this itself is an outstanding apology for their continued use and even their expansion. In my mind, overall performance (as measured how?) isn't the criteria we should use in discerning their effectiveness (Let's face it, the state is notoriously BAD at discerning "educational success.")
The effectiveness of educational choice is discerned better by individual families and not by state educational bureaucrats - who ironically often have a vested interest in voucher programs failing. Parents makes these choices for a variety of reasons and there is solid evidence to suggest that children in their varied learning capacities and abilities learn better in different learning environments. Thus, if parents have an array of educational options to choose from, they can opt for the program that best suits their kids. CHOICE IS GOOD. COMPETITION IS GOOD. FREEDOM IS GOOD.
Of course some will decry tax dollars being spent on religious education. Well, this (IMHO) represents a profoundly skewed interpretation of the establishment clause in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights are there to protect you and me from being coerced by the government into a particular religion. (period) I could - in my opinion - form a somewhat convoluted argument that government schools are presently teaching our kids a religion called pluralism...but I will desist. The point is: by providing parents with the money that would be spent educating our children anyway and allowing them to use that for a religious education is in no way "a law respecting an establishing religion" however, we might pause to ask to what degree do government schools today demonstrate a propensity for "prohibiting the free exercise thereof"?
Arguing over the success of vouchers is pointless. The point should be that it is the right thing to do and parents can decide if it works for their family. Ironically, here in Washington and in other places around the country, schools are trying to reclaim the growing number of home-schooled children by offering a wide variety of choices. Our family participates in such a program in which we homeschool and additionally participate in extra activities with other homeschooling families through a particular school district. The district gets money from the state for our childrens' "attendence" and we receive a stipend for buying curriculum (as long as it is not overtly religious). It's a pretty good deal and gives us a return on our property tax "investment."
But vouchers (or as Stossel puts it: attaching the money to the kids) would afford us the ability to put together Orthodox schools INSTANTLY. And as Stossel notes: they would actually SAVE tax payers money because they can do it for less than the public schools.
Anyway...watch the Stossel talk. I'm finishing it presently and may have more to add later.