A bill to allow poor families the financial assistance to improve their children’s education is being met with stiff resistance by both the left and the right.
The left opposes choice because many are strong advocates of the public schools (debate is not even on government paying for schools-debate is over whether government should actually be running the schools). They believe that you should be made to send your child or grandchild to the local school chosen solely on your zip code because “they believe in public education” and that’s that. Some even benefit greatly from the generous perks one can receive by teaching in a public school. While it is true that almost no one chooses to become a teacher in order to get rich, and just about all (if not all) are motivated by the genuine desire to help young people, the fact is that public school teachers and their union reps do get generous benefits such as: 12 week summer vacation (some in-service hours during the summer are still less than the typical worker putting in a 40 hour week in the summer), a reasonable salary, a generous pension plan, dues for the reps, etc. Some are threatened by the recent arrival of charter schools and a greater demand for private schools and homeschooling, since our model for funding traditional public schools is based on counting kids who attend the schools and receiving funding per student. They believe “charters and choice” will destroy public schools, and for many they may believe this will take away their jobs or lower salaries. The response is this: why do some parents want the schools? For one, it is the parent’s/guardian’s/grandparents (grand)child or (grand)children. They do not belong to the community as some might want you to believe. If the parent truly feels that a religious education, a cyber school education, a charter education, or even a traditional public school education is best, then that’s their right. If the public school defenders dislike charters and choice, they ought to ask WHY there is even a movement in the first place (and no, it is not an astroturf movement funded by the Koch Brothers or ALEC). The problem is NOT that we spend too much money. Delaware spends over $12,000 a year on public education, close to $17,000 a year if capital improvements and expenses are included (such as building new schools or upgrading a cafeteria or electrical outlets in a building). Many good private schools charge less than that per year, so cost is not the issue.
Many on the right appear to be opposed to ESA’s as well. Many look at this from a purely tax and spend perspective and conclude that this is just “welfare” for poor people. That all this is is more big government. That assertion is incorrect. The state regulates and oversees the ESA programs, within reason, to cut down on any fraud and abuse which might occur. the ESA’s are given to parents based on income and need, and must be renewed every year by the state. Guardians found to be irresponsible with the money will have their privileges revoked, to the tragic and great detriment of the children who need it most. The cost of one ESA is ALWAYS equal to or less than the lost of a traditional education, and 10% of the ESA money goes to the public school to begin with. Spending $7,500 to help a parent to send her intelligent child to a school like Tatnall is a far better deal than spending $12,000 on the current model is a better deal for taxpayers. A long-term study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that 88% of those currently incarcerated all had one (of several) things in common: they could not read even at a basic proficiency by the time they completed 3rd grade and went to 4th grade. Most young people who are not engaged in the classroom and who come from “bad” areas such as parts of Wilmington are likely to drop out of high school and end up on the streets, where they will not have the knowledge or skills to find a good paying job and many will sadly end up in prison or receiving government assistance. Given the severity of the situation, and the fact that Delaware’s education system is mediocre (proof: look at IRS data and see how many more families move to other states such as right across the border into PA) we should be doing everything we can to improve education. Just because a government program is created does not automatically make it bad; yes there will be issues but they pale in comparison to the issues we have now. Creating a government program which reduces spending by another is a positive achievement.
Try being told what grocery store you will use, what movie theater you can go to, what doctor or dentist you must see, what restaurants you are allowed to eat at based purely on your home or apartment address.
The bill, HB353, will be heard on Wednesday the 11th at 2:30 PM. If you agree that something must be done to offer poor parents and special needs students a real choice in education, one where parents are not assigned to a school purely based on address, then please read the bill on the Legislative website and see what you can do to improve the quality of Delaware’s K-12 education.
As always, please feel free to comment.