School vouchers necessary to ensure equal education opportunities

There is an education crisis in this nation.

I am not being dramatic or exaggerating. Sure, for people like me, and most students at the College, high school was a fine tool, a step on the way to higher education. We are the privileged.

In 1983, a Reagan presidential commission released “A Nation at Risk,” which found that America had all but lost the educational edge it had gained during the 20th century by allowing its public school systems to be diluted by mediocrity.

More relevantly, the 1998 report by former Secretary of Education, Bill Bennett, cleverly entitled “A Nation Still at Risk,” found that in the 15 years since the initial report, things had not improved. America has fallen behind the other industrialized nations of the world, ranking 19th in mathematics and 16th in science out of 21 competitors in the Third International Math and Science Study.

During those 15 years, 10 million Americans reached 12th grade without being able to read, and 20 million without being able to do basic math.

Minorities seem to suffer the most from the failing public school system. The report found that 13 percent of blacks ages 16-24 were not in high school and had not graduated. The most alarming statistic is that 44 percent of Hispanic immigrants left high school before completion. While this is clearly not conspiratorial racism, as my counterparts on the left are wont to immediately charge, it is certainly a discrepancy in our society that compels us to fix a very clearly broken system.

Further, schools are increasingly at the mercy of politicians and large labor unions more interested in lobbying than in education.

The National Education Association campaigns for reparations to blacks, subsidizing federal elections with tax dollars and representation in Congress for the District of Colombia.

Considering that the College’s roots are firmly planted in training educators, there is something conspicuously missing from our social and political discourse: the issue of school choice. If anyone should be talking about this issue, it is the future teacher-leaders of this nation, which the College masterfully produces perennially.

“School choice” refers to the idea of allowing parents more choice in where their children attend school. This has been most controversial in the form of the voucher program, which would allow parents to “cash” education vouchers at the school of their choosing. Average per-student spending at public schools is around $6,500, and the tuition at 88 surveyed private schools is less than $4,000, and at 60 of those it is under $3,200.

Opponents to the voucher program claim that it is a violation of moral or legal ethics to spend taxpayer money in a manner of which they do not approve. While this may be true on some abstract moral level, it is patently absurd in this context. Admittedly, I don’t yet own property and the majority of my income comes from the federal government, but I do not support my tax dollars going to ineffective schools that excuse mediocrity. It is just as unfair to ask anti-school choice people to pay for voucher scholarship taxes as it is to ask school choice proponents to pay school taxes.

This, of course, raises another issue. The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Education Association, the Anti-Defamation League and other opponents of school choice claim that it violates the separation of church and state.

This simply demonstrates the fact that liberals do not understand the concept of separation of church and state. The Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” It does not say, “Nothing to do with government shall have anything to do with religion in any way, shape or form, and in fact all legislation, litigation and administration of the United States shall completely disavow God.”

It would indeed be a violation of church-state principles if the choice vouchers were expressly intended only for Catholic prep schools, Jewish boarding schools or private Muslim education. However, critics by design seem to ignore the word “choice.” This allows parents to continue to raise their children in the manner they see fit, in accordance with their freedoms. Of course there will continue to be non-religious schools. Clearly, there is a market for quality secular education.

And with that, we come to the real case for school choice: the free market. Everything in the United States has flourished under the free market system, and it is symbiotic with liberalism’s cherished notions of Darwinism. If schools were forced to compete for students – and their tuition – they would independently develop pedagogy and techniques that led to success.

Much in the same way socialism failed to lead to superior technology, or superior economies, or superior culture, so too will it fail to lead to superior education.

The most inane part of the whole scenario is the liberal insistence that it won’t work. They ignore Florida, Cleveland and Milwaukee, where vouchers have been implemented successfully. They ignore the fact that an increasing plurality of parents, including 68 percent of all blacks according to a 1999 survey, support the program, understanding that it gives them the chance to give their children a better tomorrow.

A study conducted by Harvard and University of Wisconsin researchers hammer the point home. The research shows that 85 percent of New York City School Choice Scholarship Foundation students were below-average students, flying in the face of the argument that school choice favors only the wealthy and brilliant.

Independent schools all over the nation are flourishing, far excelling their public counterparts. The Young Women’s Leadership School in Harlem graduated 100 percent of its first senior class, with 100 percent of students passing the English Regents, compared with 42 percent statewide.

Reasonable people can disagree on other matters of politics. We all agree that we want what is best for the next generation. Theory suggests school choice will be successful and practice shows that school choice is wildly more successful than the current system. We must allow parents to choose what is best for their children, and education is no exception.

Information from –,,,,,,, Sean Hannity’s Let Freedom Ring: “Setting Parents Free”