Wednesday, February 20, 2008

educational vouchers as Pell Grants

From Rabbi Avi Shafran at JewishWorldReview.com...

There are three distinct ways to look at school vouchers.

One is to regard them as a bogeyman threatening to destroy the American public educational system and undermine the sublime values that system instills in its students.

Call that the "teachers unions" approach.

The second is to regard them as a lifeline for poor parents, a means of allowing those without means to provide their children a chance to escape failing public schools.

That was President Bush's approach in his final State of the Union address, wherein he lauded the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program Congress approved at the beginning of 2004. That enactment permitted more than 2600 of the poorest children in Washington, previously enrolled in the District's poorly performing public schools, to transfer to nonpublic schools, including religious ones, of their parents' choice.

The President went on to propose a "Pell Grants for Kids" initiative, intended to help children "trapped in failing public schools" attend private and religious schools, presumably along the lines of the D.C. program.

But the reference to Pell Grants — which provide need-based grants to low-income students for postsecondary education — was somewhat puzzling. Because the Pell Grant model applied to younger students would be a reflection of the third way of approaching school vouchers.

That would be to regard them as something more than a "next stop" after a child has been sentenced to wasted years — or worse — in a failing school. To regard them, instead, as the empowerment of a fundamental parental right: the right to educate one's children as one wishes them to be educated.

Pell Grants are not just for students in failing public colleges, but for all students whose families could not otherwise afford to continue their educations. The theory is straightforward: Wealthy students have access to quality higher education, poorer ones do not. Let government do what it can to level the playing field, allowing more young people who otherwise would end up in menial jobs (or worse) become accountants, scientists, doctors, lawyers or teachers themselves — and taxpayers.

The logic of allowing for more educational choice is even more compelling when it comes to the early years of educational careers, when children's minds and morals are molded by their school experiences. Even a plan like the D.C. initiative can only be accessed by parents after their child has languished in a failing school. And when that child has been released from his or her internment, perhaps even scarred by the experience, any siblings will have to do their own time before they, too, can qualify for a better educational environment....

Public school advocates — including those who enjoy the option of being able to afford private schools for their own children even while opposing governmental policies that would extend that option to those less financially fortunate — say no. But they are responding from fear. Unfounded fear, to boot. The public school system qua system will only benefit from true school choice. Were all American parents able to send their children to the schools of their choice, some individual public schools might indeed wither away from lack of interest. But that's just the fate of any inferior product in the face of competition. Choices, though, are always a boon to quality, and to the consumer. Public schools that do the job they are supposed to do will surely continue to thrive.

The constitutionality of vouchers once made for interesting legal debate, but the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that the concept of providing parents educational vouchers with which to guide their children's education does not violate the Constitution. So school choice is both logical and legal.

And compelling. There is straightforward justice in empowering parents to choose how their children are educated, to exercise what is perhaps, the most important civil right of all.

1 Comments:

At December 25, 2008 at 8:31 AM , Blogger Fairy said...

I got a grant from the federal government for $12,000 in financial aid, see how you can get one also at http://couponredeemer.com/federalgrants/

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home