Reconsidering School Vouchers

Teachers, those who should be most adamant about improving the education system, lead the charge against vouchers (National Education Association, “Vouchers”). For the sake of religious freedom and failing inner-city schools, teachers and other citizens should reconsider the school voucher issue.

Vouchers provide inner-city schools the option to receive a better education than the public education system currently can provide them. Even with the growing school of choice programs, many inner-city students do not have the means to take advantage of the ability to go to a better neighboring school district if one exists. These students would benefit from vouchers because private schools would be able to open up in the inner-city to provide a valid alternative within their community to the public schools that are failing them.

Vouchers, despite being argued against as a violation of separation of church and state, are in actuality a liberating program that provides religious freedom. This is the reason publicly financed private schools are popular in the Netherlands (Ravitch, “The Right Thing”). In a private school, the government does not need to decide what religious holidays will be celebrated or ignored, whether the science classes will teach intelligent design along with evolution or not, or make any decision in regard to any other religious topic. Vouchers provide an actual separation of church and state in that the state would not have to make religious or anti-religious decisions in regards to a student's education while allowing parents to educate their children with the religious or secular convictions they hold.

The evidence shows that the United States is doing something wrong with their education policies; public funding of private education might be the improvement the educational system needs. “Of the thirty nations that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only seven do not permit any government funding of K-12 private schools; in addition to the United States, they include Greece, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, and Turkey” (Ravitch, “The Right Thing”). Of these thirty nations in the Programme for International Student Assessment's (PISA), five of the bottom six in mathematics were from the group of seven that do not permit any government funding for private schools (PISA 53). Of the same thirty nations, the bottom four in science were from the same group of seven (PISA 22). The United States also did not fare too well on the survey: In science they finished 21st out of 30; in math they finished 25th out of 30 (PISA 53, 22). They were not graded in the reading results. All of this despite the United States spending the second most out of the thirty nations at $11,152 per student (Sharek).

Removing bureaucratic control is the most valid alternative to improve the city schools in monolithic bureaucratic systems like the New York City Department of Education and other large cities. Vouchers have only been implemented to any major degree in the United States in the inner-cities of Milwaukee and Cleveland, yet they show great potential (Ravitch, “The Right Thing”). Publicly funded private schools has been a success abroad. Seventy-six percent of all public spending in the Netherlands was given to private schools, yet they finished 3rd out of 30 in math and 6th out of 30 in science (Ravitch, “The Right Thing, PISA 53, 22). Belgium, who comes in second of the thirty nations by spending 58% of all their public money in private schools, finished 8th out of 30 in math and 16th out of 30 in science (Ravitch, “The Right Thing”, PISA 53, 22).

The evidence shows that publicly funding private schools is not a recipe for disaster. In cities like New York City, where only 50% of the students graduate in four years, vouchers would be worth checking into since current attempts at change have not produced positive change. Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, NJ, and neighbor to New York City, believes that his city could turn around education much faster than NYC if he is given mayoral control and the use of vouchers (Garland, “Booker Seeks Vouchers”). Vouchers allow a variety changes to be implemented at the same time, and these changes are focused on the classroom as well as administration. It is time for other cities to allow vouchers and give other failing students a choice.

Works Cited

Garland, Sarah. “Booker Seeks Vouchers, Says He Could Best Bloomberg on Schools.” New York Sun. 20 Feb. 2007. 3 Dec. 2007 <>.

National Education Association. “Vouchers.” 9 Dec. 2007 <>.

Programme for International Student Assessment. “Executive Summary PISA 2006: Science Competencies for Tomorrow's World.” 2006. 9 Dec 2007 <>.

Ravitch, Diane. “The Right Thing: Why Liberals Should Be Pro-Choice.” The New Republic. 8 Oct. 2001. 3 Dec. 2007 <>.

Sharek, Dylan. “U.S. Drops in International Education Rankings.” Mosaic. 20 Oct. 2005. 9 Dec. 2007