The school choice and voucher movement is heating up again, with the new Republican majority in congress and pressure from their Tea Party supporters. They want less “Big Government” intervention (read: less support for publicly funded and publicly controlled local schools that serve the vast majority of American children) and more “parental choice” (read: less of their own money going to public schools for the rabble and more tax breaks, incentives and vouchers to subsidize their kids’ elite private schools). At the vanguard of this movement are Wisconsin, New Jersey and Florida, where Governor Rick Scott is calling for universal vouchers that would provide families with money for private schools, taking a portion of those funds from the pool of tax dollars that would have gone to public schools.
According to a 2003 Heritage Foundation survey on school choice, 41% of U.S. representatives and 46% of U.S. senators who responded have sent at least one of their kids to a private school. Politicians, like their super rich patrons, have the wealth, power, social connections and status to send their kids wherever they wish. Of course, with the continuing underfunding of public schools, and the damage done by a decade of NCLB, along with the thirty year decline in income for the majority of Americans, it is no wonder that public schools seem so undesirable to the wealthy. More importantly, the majority of Americans do not have the power, wealth and connections to get their kids into and pay for elite schools. Even with vouchers, the top elite schools will remain largely out of reach for most Americans due to location, entrance requirements and cost. Consider that under Rick Scott's Florida plan, families would get about $7,700, which isn't even enough for decent childcare for a toddler, let alone an elite private or charter school.
While virtually anyone who lives in a state that provides vouchers can use a voucher to attend a private or parochial school, very few are getting a better education as a result, and even fewer are attending elite private schools. While voucher advocates love to cite the slightly higher graduation rates for Milwaukee’s voucher students (Milwaukee has one of the highest percentages of students in voucher schools), as compared to those in traditional public schools, the data is unconvincing. First, there are only 20,000 voucher students in Milwaukee, compared with 80,000 in public schools. Smaller cohorts often have skewed data compared to larger ones. Second, those who take the time and effort to utilize the voucher system and research alternative schools for their children are more likely to put more time and energy into their children's education, provide more support at home, and hold their children to higher expectations, making their children more likely to do well in any school environment. Third, Milwaukee schools are among the lowest performing in the country, which is just the opposite of what one would expect from the city that has such a high percentage of voucher students.
According to a recent article in The Daily Censored, “Public servants and private schools: private school choice for the very elite,” Jimmy Carter was the last U.S. president to send his kids to public school.
- Obama’s kids attend Sidwell Friends School at a cost of $29,000 per year.
- Biden’s grand-daughters also go to Sidwell
- Rahm Emanuel’s kids currently attend private schools in D.C. He has not yet admitted where they go when they move back to Chicago, but Emanuel is a strong advocate of privatization.
- Michael Bloomberg’s daughters attended Spence School, an all-girls private academy that costs $34,000 per year.
- Adrian Fenty, former mayor of D.C. and supporter of Michelle Rhee, who sent is kids to private school.
- Jersey Governor Chris Christie, another supporter of privatization and vouchers and overall anti-public sector crank, sends his children to parochial schools.