An earlier column outlined the disastrous strike against Chicago Public Schools by union teachers who are holding school kids hostage in return for unreasonable wage increases, limited performance reviews, and jobs for life, no matter how inept they may be. This columnist called for a voucher system to replace the present taxpayer funding of bloated, often ineffective, public schools. Today, many parents impoverish their families in order to provide an education that reinforces their spiritual values and gives children the academics they will need to compete in a global economy. Some cities offer publicly-funded vouchers, and private foundations offer scholarships, but most of this money is given only to a small percentage of low-income families. Affluent people, of course, have the money to provide their children with a superior education, once again leaving the middle class (ordinary working people with decent incomes but lots of bills to pay) to fend for itself.
What, if anything, can we do to bring about educational equality through a taxpayer-funded voucher system for all students?
1. Learn about Vouchers and How to Answer Common Objections
Simply explained, a parental choice system gives every family with a school age child a voucher good for the price of an elementary or high school education. Children with diagnosed educational disabilities receive more generous funding to accommodate their special needs.
Some parents in excellent public districts may use their vouchers to support their local public school and the best will survive. Other parents will choose private or parochial schools that offer a superior education and reinforce family values. Homeschooling families can use their vouchers for tuition, museum memberships, home computers, tutors and other education related expenses.
Some objections may come from your own family, as ethnic Catholics have a long and rich tradition of supporting trade unions. Encourage family members to look more closely at the issues, and they will learn that today’s public sector unions have little in common with the unions they remember from their youth. The National Catholic Educational Association supports school choice as well.
2. Support Candidates for Political Office who Espouse School Choice
One of the reasons that school choice does not get widespread support or attention is the power of the teachers union, and other public service unions. These organizations make big campaign contributions and get their members to vote for candidates who support their position of big benefits, guaranteed job security, and generous pensions. Politicians send their own children to expensive private schools, so one has a sneaking suspicion that they see the same problems with public schools that the rest of us see, but they want to stay in office and union teachers are a powerful force to help keep them there.
Write or call your elected representatives and urge them to support parental choice in education. Ask candidates for office where they stand on this issue, and make your feelings known.
3. Get the Word Out
Catholics are no longer dependent on the left-leaning, mainstream media to get the word out about issues that are important to us. Through social networking, we can educate and excite people about public funding of private, parochial and home schooling. Do your homework so you understand what is at stake and then get on social media: Facebook, Twitter, online groups, message boards, and chat rooms, and share what you have learned. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper, and call local or national talk radio shows, to offer weary citizens a solution to school failure.
An increasing number of parents are unwilling to even consider enrolling their offspring in local public school. Justice, and the rights of parents to direct their children’s education, both demand that they be given financial relief. The most repeated objection is that school choice will take funds away from the public schools. That is something to ponder. How long do taxpayers have to continue shoveling dollars into an institution that serves teachers and politicians far better than children?