School vouchers: Unconventional wisdom

By E.M. Brown

By Salon Staff
Published August 21, 2000 7:57PM (EDT)

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I am black, but far from liberal. I'm really tired of people condemning good parents and students to bad schools. I am so glad somebody like E.M. Brown finally gets it. The experiment of improving schools has gone on since the early '80s and it's not working. While white suburban parents are saying "save public education," well, of course their kids go to good schools. Don't experiment with black children's education in hopes that in the end it'll all work out.

I've been for school vouchers a long time. I'd like to have the choice to send my child to a good private school just like Al Gore and Bill Clinton. Why is it that public education is great for my child, but not good enough for theirs? It's hypocrisy and I'm tired of it. The fact is that the question of affirmative action would be moot if all children had the chance for a good education, because then it would depend on merit. But condemning the urban poor to bad schools will keep things like affirmative action necessary forever. My brother is so afraid of sending his son to the public middle school where I live, he's working two jobs to send the boy to private. I feel sorry for kids whose parents don't care about their education, but why should parents that do have to suffer?

-- Eugenia Mitchell-Duguay

Another silly article on school vouchers. Exactly what schools are the poor, inner-city black children supposed to attend with these vouchers? I know of very few private schools of quality located in such neighborhoods. I haven't seen one voucher program proposal yet that comes even close to covering the costs of a bad private school, let alone one of the really good ones. I also have trouble seeing, say, Gore's alma mater, so recently mentioned on the Web, accepting vast numbers of Washington's troubled black youth even if a voucher program was available to pay the entire cost of tuition.

Let us stop pretending that vouchers are anything but a way for rich, mostly white, mostly Republican parents to get some of the cost of sending their children to private schools paid for by the state. The really good private schools cost a whole truckload of money to build and maintain. Tuition is often $20,000 or so per year and that is with an endowment and paying the teachers crap. If we really wanted good public schools (and I see little evidence we really do) then we'd bite the bullet and shovel money at them. We wanted a great military and, despite $600 hammers, we shovel money at the military to buy a great one. Throwing money at a problem may not solve it (though I have really yet to see that approach tried despite all the talk), but I can guarantee failure if we are not willing to pay the necessary cost.

As a gay man, I think gay Republicans are akin to Jewish Nazis: people who really don't get the crowd they are running with (or people willing to sell their souls for a tax cut). The same is true of minorities supporting vouchers as a way to improve schools.

-- Stephen R. Stapleton

Salon Staff

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