I’m at an academic conference so I only have time for a short post today.
— OSSBA (@OSSBAoklahoma) February 26, 2016
I thought I might make a couple of points about a recent commentary by The Oklahoman editorial board in which it supports school vouchers or what is now getting called euphemistically by its advocates “Education Savings Account.” Don’t get fooled by the language. What is getting considered at the legislature are school vouchers that would take money away from public schools to give to some parents so they could send their kids to private schools.
A legislative committee has approved a voucher system for Oklahoma, and this has made The Oklahoman editorial writers call it “an initial victory for Oklahoma children.” What it should be called is an initial victory for the rich parents of rich Oklahoma children.
— OK Education Assoc. (@okea) February 15, 2016
The basic concept of school vouchers, which has been pushed by conservative forces for many years in many states now, is that taxpayer money that would normally go to public schools would get handed over to parents so they can at least defray if not fully fund their child’s education at private schools, whether these schools are religious or even that good in educational outcomes. Meanwhile, our public school system, which has all types of choices now available to parents, will have to do more with less money because of student population growth and testing mandates.
We already fund public schools at one of the lowest levels in Oklahoma. Our teacher salaries are the lowest in the region and next to the bottom nationally. These two facts are proven empirically through various studies and have been for a long time. Our teachers are leaving the state in droves for money and benefits. That’s anecdotal evidence, although it has been estimated at one time by the state school superintendent’s office that the state has or had a teacher shortage of about 1,000.
I bring up the empircal/anecdotal evidence because The Oklahoman editorial made its case based pretty much solely on “stories” told by someone who heads up an organization that supports vouchers. Here’s an example from the editorial:
Another mother sought a transfer for her child from one public school to another, but couldn’t get it. That family ultimately had to sell their home and move into an apartment on the other side of town to get their child into a better school.
This is sheer anecdotal evidence at its flimsiest. Note that we don’t know the name of the mother or the names of the schools involved. Does it mean that the story isn’t true? Not necessarily, but I would want to know the full story before I trusted it. I would want to know the names of the people involved and the names of the schools and the names of the neighborhoods. I would want to know the names of the leaders of the two schools and their district or districts and hear what they have to say about this particular case. An enterprising reporter could try to track all this information down, but I doubt The Oklahoman editors would allow it. Other news outlets probably don’t have the time or staff to do this type of real reporting
This data is a couple of years old, but it’s empirical evidence and is worth considering: The children of 75 percent of parents that applied for school vouchers in a Wisconsin program were already attending private school. That undoubtedly is what is going to happen here if school vouchers come to Oklahoma.
Here’s my story since we’re talking stories: Rich people are going to become richer, and our public schools will suffer, and so will our democracy, if school vouchers become a reality here.
— OurChildrenOK (@OurChildrenOK) February 26, 2016