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April 30, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 13






– Necrology


School vouchers

Many parents of children who are failing or performing poorly in their local public schools see Catholic schools as a means of giving their child a chance to get ahead and receive a better education.

For the poor or even those who might consider themselves middle class, this option for a private school education can make the difference between failure and being successful. It’s been proven that kids who get a chance to attend classes in a positive learning environment with some extra help can overcome repeated poor performance or failure.

The optional education experience is financed by vouchers which receive funding from tax dollars. It is definitely not a free ride for struggling working class parents who want to send their children to schools which help their children learn. Some parents are willing to work two or even three jobs to pay for private school for their kids.

So who would be against extending this opportunity to such children? Public school educators are one such group. They argue that in giving state funds to private schools, public schools are getting less money — funds they need to succeed. They also claim that public support of private schools violates the separation of church and state.

This may be true, but does anyone question that vast sums of money are being spent to finance public school systems which are failing?

In the School District of Philadelphia the city spent $165.8 million on health insurance premiums for members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers for the 2010-11 school year. An additional $66 million was spent to pay for the union’s dental, vision and prescription benefits.

That means that more than $231 million for just health care benefits alone was shelled out in one school year without the purchase of the first book or other school supplies. The results of standardized test scores are poor. Yet many who lead failing school districts say things would change if only they had more money. The thought of “putting good money after bad” comes to mind.

Vouchers cannot rescue all failing students. A lot has to do with the motivation of the students themselves and support from their parents or grandparents, in some cases.

Anthony Williams, a Pennsylvania state senator from Philadelphia, is clear about why he supports vouchers. His Senate district includes low-income neighborhoods which have persistently failing schools where students and teachers have the additional burden of not feeling safe.

“I believe a child should not be required to go to a place like that,” Sen. Williams said of such schools.

“They should have options just like anybody else in America does, and it will serve us better in the long run as opposed to requiring them to go to a place that we know they don’t get the rudimentary skills.”

This is not only logical, it’s the right thing to do.

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