Opposing viewpoints3 min read

Proposition 38: School vouchers would undermine public funds

Scott Morris and Annette Shussett

America’s Right Wing has shown a penchant for reinventing its image in recent years. It has been quite a journey from Ronald Reagan’s inaugural chuckling during a “blackface” performance by Ben Vereen to the awkward yet over the top display of “diversity” at this year’s Republican Convention.

Still, such surface reinvention does not change the fact that the Right has an even greater penchant for creating demons. Come election time, Republicans and their ilk fall back again and again on Boogey Man mythology. They put one American against another to further their reactionary agendas.

Under Proposition 38, Californians would receive annual state payments of $4,000 per pupil for private schooling at the cost of $2-$3 billion taxpayer dollars per year. This $2-$3 billion will benefit the few who are shipped out of their communities to receive an education at for-profit institutions while harming the many who continue to attend neighborhood public schools on whom Prop 38 would heap further budget cuts.

This fall in California, said Boogey Man is none other than our public education system. Yes, come November billionaire Tim Draper – a man who is on record claiming public education is “…the one last bastion of socialism left in our system” – and his Right Wing cohorts including Republican Senator John McCain want you to vote yes on Prop. 38.

If passed, Prop. 38 will result in abandonment of our public schools. A partial tuition break for families already able to afford sending their children to private schools would leave working and impoverished families in the lurch having to pay for this scheme with tax dollars while not receiving enough of a payback to send their own children school.

Our educational woes in this state and nation are much more deep rooted than flippant notions of privatized schooling daydreamed by individuals completely removed from middle and working class reality. Diversion of funds from improving schools to which all have access to institutions accessible by a select few will surely exacerbate existing socio-economic inequities rather than alleviate them.

The naive may assert that through the means of a voucher initiative private schooling would no longer be accessible by a select few but rather by the majority. This fantasy sounds fine until one considers two facts. First, $4,000 per year alone does not fund a private education, therefore the wealthy will still have the advantage in educating their children while middle and working class families will see cuts in federal education funding as a result. Second, even if one has the tuition, private schools do not necessarily have an open door policy. While not permitted by law to openly discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, etc private schools are not obligated to take students.

Further arguments can be made against Prop. 38 on the basis of academic standards. Private schools are not required to follow state curriculum standards and voucher teachers do not need credentials or even college degrees, as well as continued questions of finance.

In addition to cuts from public education, voucher funds could come from cuts in police, fire, health care and similar programs. But, the most important point is the fact that taxpayer money should not go to finance.

Public funds should never go to assist the country club delusions of our Drapers or McCains nor should they be used in the service of political or religious fanatics looking to house their children in refuges from reality.

Our public education system was created to ensure quality education for ALL Americans and if we fund them properly and focus our attention on improvements, they will continue to serve as cornerstones of our communities.