On school vouchers

by Wm. Robert Johnston
7 October 2002

Dear Editor:

In a recent editorial on school vouchers, Edson Johnson Jr. appears to be uninformed on the issues behind the voucher proposals. A complete picture of vouchers shows them to be a step towards freedom for children suffering from public schools that can‘t compete.

The recent public school programs cited by Johnson are mere window dressing on a failing enterprise. By virtually any standardized measure, academic performance in public schools is far below levels a few decades ago and far below standards in the rest of the developed world.

In contrast, on average students of private and home schools outperform their public school peers for a fraction of the cost. By law Texas private schools are free from bureaucratic constraints on curriculum, and they have better educated students to show for it. Vouchers must not be an excuse to end their success.

Regrettably, Johnson's editorial seems to be a thinly disguised attack on citizens with religious convictions. His spurious references to history ignore the fact that in the last century democracy has suffered the most under secular governments, not from churches.

Some like Johnson seem eager to overlook the Constitution’s ban on restricting the free exercise of religion. This includes denying religious groups the same rights granted to any other group of citizens. Thus, even in BISD it is easier for a teacher to endorse communism than to express a personal belief in God.

Every level of government has presumed to use public funds for all sorts of services. Since the government has taken this role, for it to then deny such services to religious groups constitutes a targeted restriction on these groups. This is both wrong and illegal.

Would vouchers give money that parents could choose to use for educating their child at a religious school? It sure would. We don’t complain if a government employee uses part of his or her taxpayer-provided salary to send a child to a private school. So why object to allowing all parents the power to make this choice for their children, using money already collected on their behalf?

Vouchers are not a grant to the private school, but a grant to the parents to direct the education of their children. Vouchers will make the biggest difference for the poor. The wealthy have already escaped the public schools when they wanted. The poor, however, are currently left with no choice--often they do not even have a choice of which public school. All children deserve the best.

Public influence on public schools has proven insufficient to overcome the vested interests of an educational bureaucracy that nationwide consumes more money than the department of defense, of teachers' unions that are so out of touch they refuse to criticize terrorism, or of politicians that only acknowledge their failed expenditures when they want to spend more. Vouchers are an opportunity to help individual families and to begin reform of our education system.

(printed in The Brownsville Herald October 2002)

© 2002, 2003, 2008 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 27 January 2008.
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