Vouchers and School Choice - The Use of School Vouchers
Length: 603 words (1.7 double-spaced pages)
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There has been a lot of debate recently over the use of school vouchers. Voucher programs offer students attending both public and private schools tuition vouchers. It gives taxpayers the freedom to pick where their tax dollars go. In theory, good schools will thrive with money and bad schools will lose students and close its doors. Most people feel that taking taxpayer money from public schools and using this money as vouchers for private schools is a violation of the constitution. Most private schools in America right now are run by religious organizations.
There has been a lot of controversy over this issue mainly because of the importance of an education in a modern society. School choice initiatives are based on the premise that allowing parents to choose what schools their children attend is not only the right thing to do, but is also an important way for improving education. Instead of a one-size-fits-all model, School choice programs offer parents various options from which to pick the educational settings they believe will work best for their child. However, there is
Supporters of school vouchers claim that it levels the educational playing field for lower income families who would have the option to send their kids away from an "ineffective" poorly funded public schools. Some lower class families feel that their kids would have a better chance with a tuition voucher to go to a private school where more money is spent on education.
Many feel that vouchers would undermine public schools, by taking away public money for smaller class sizes, teacher training and innovative curriculum. Also, many feel that vouchers would erode the support for public education. In Milwaukee, voucher schools say they do not give special services to students with disabilities. Most of the voucher schools refused to sign a letter that they will honor constitutional rights such as free speech and due process. The letter stated that the schools would not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, pregnancy, or marital status.
Despite the controversy surrounding vouchers, the private school choice movement may be gaining support. In June of 1999, The Florida legislature approved a plan to give children in the state's worst schools taxpayer-funded tuition payments to attend qualified public, private, or religious schools.
While state-accepted programs that provide public money for students to attend private and religious schools are already in place in Cleveland and Milwaukee, the Florida action is important because it is the first comprehensive voucher plan to be approved by a state.
However, this year, a Florida judge struck down the Florida's legislature year old program that allows students to get away from troubled and poorly funded schools. The Judge stated tax dollars may not be used to send the children of this state to private schools," the Judge ruled. He based his decision on the 1998 amendment that Florida voters added to the state constitution declaring an "efficient, safe, secure and high-quality system of free public schools" to be "a paramount duty of the state."
Judges in a lower court have had mixed rulings on this issue. Some judges have upheld the voucher programs and some have struck them down. This issue is yet to be decided by the US Supreme Court and continues to cause debate until the Supreme Court settles it.
"School choice initiatives are based on the premise that allowing parents to choose what schools..." is cited in Brimley, V., & Garfield, V. (2008). Financing Education in a Climate of Change. New York, NY: Pearson. Brimley and Garfield cite it from an article in Education Week from March 2000.