OBAMA AND VOUCHERS
November 10, 2008
According to public opinion polls, 65 percent of adult African-Americans and 63 percent of adult Hispanics favor the use of school vouchers, and more than half of minority adults give higher marks to their local police than their public schools. Yet, the number of minority students that are quitting the education system is staggering, says the National Journal.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics:
- In 2006 nearly 11 percent of African-American students between the ages of 16 and 24 dropped out of school -- almost double the rate for white students.
- The dropout rate among Hispanics was 22 percent.
- Higher dropout rates also mean higher unemployment: in 2006, more than half of all African-American dropouts and more than one-third of Hispanic dropouts were not in the labor force.
The fundamental problem with the voucher debate is that it is always seen as an either/or proposition. For Republicans, it is the panacea to all the education woes; for Democrats, it is something that will destroy public education. So what does the future hold for them now with President-elect Obama?
Obama argues that voucher-based initiatives fund mostly faith-based schools, violating separation of church and state. But faith-based institutions may participate in voucher programs as a result of Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, in which the Supreme Court ruled that students may study at any private or public school as long as aid is awarded directly to the parent or guardian and not the school.
Some critics argue that voucher programs drain funding that could be used to reform and improve public schools. But others counter that under voucher programs state aid allotted to public schools would move with the student regardless of whether he or she attends a public or private school. It's really no different than any other change of school; you want the money to follow the child, says the Journal.
Source: Kelly Petty, "Obama Questioned on Vouchers," National Journal, October 18, 2008.
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