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A response to bigfish2 on school vouchers

A commenter made a good point in response to my Monday post on D.C. school vouchers. I'd cited two arguments of voucher opponents: that we should concentrate on reforming public schools, so that all children benefit, not just those lucky enough to get vouchers; and that by allowing the children (and families) with the most initiative to opt out, we further impoverish the schools for those left behind.

But as bigfish2 notes, there’s another serious objection:

Given that many of the vouchers are used to pay for education in Catholic schools, they’re a not-so-subtle use of taxpayer dollars to finance religious education. I’m a Methodist, & I wouldn’t want my taxes supporting the teaching of Methodist dogma any more than that of Catholicism.

Many people agree with bigfish2, both on constitutional separation-of-church-and-state grounds and because they just don’t want tax money going to religious education. I get this. But I disagree, for the same reason it doesn’t bother me when college students spend their federal Pell grants at Georgetown or Notre Dame. The key is student choice. Those students decide where to go, and where to spend their Pell grants -- or their D.C. vouchers. Religiously-affiliated schools are simply one of their options. The government isn’t dictating, or directly subsidizing, religious education. It’s subsidizing choice.

Now, I think this is more of a close call than a slam dunk. You can make a case, for example, that the religious instruction in high schools is more pervasive than at colleges, and so the Pell grant analogy shouldn’t apply. But because I regard the current situation as a scandal and an emergency, I’m inclined to decide the close calls in favor of choice. After all, we’re talking here about children otherwise condemned to attend schools where most students are not even being taught to proficiency, and most don't make it to graduation.That means really bright children are being robbed of a future, through no fault of their own.

I’m as encouraged as anyone by early signs of improvement, as D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee works to change the system. But it’s not acceptable to ask parents to wait five years for things to get better. For more than a thousand kids, vouchers offer a chance at immediate relief. It’s a shame that the Obama administration won’t fight to let them keep that chance.

By Fred Hiatt  | February 10, 2010; 11:07 AM ET
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Comments

Sort of like poor girls who are robbed of their futures by politicians scoring points with the religious right on birth control? The young people taught that the world developed around a religious dogma, rather than the other way?

You may as well apologize to them now. America's fear and loathing of intellectualism in a post-industrial age ensures that the nation's standing in the world is swiftly diminishing.

Education is a matter of national security. A post-industrial economy can only be sustained if the work force is educated and fully using their brains.

The cogs in a machine we are training cannot compete with innovators educated in other industrialized countries.

We are slaves of the corporation. They make us pay for our own education, our own maintenance (health care, transit) and con people into voting to give them more power and fewer responsibilities than the people whose resources they plunder.

A large part of facism is the incorporation of business with government.

We've already contracted out our defense to corporations who fight and kill for profit. Can our military compete with them if they decide to go wih the highest bidder?

Posted by: RMarigny | February 10, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Way to start out the comments with a huge steaming pile of dumb, RMarigny. Did you even come *close* to getting the point of what Hiatt wrote? Care to say anything relevant?

Posted by: charlesbakerharris | February 10, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Not only do I not want to pay taxes for Catholic Schools, I dont want to pay taxes for education at all. I have no children, so I am paying for everyone else's children.

You all think that the offering of a public option in heatlhcare (something that could help alot of people in our society by making health insurance affordable to everyone) is wrong and socialized medicine.

Well people who do not use the education system should not have to pay for it. Public education is socialized education.

Same with Medicare, SS etc. All socialized programs.

Those roads and trains and buses that I pay for and don't use --socialized programs.

Food stamps, public housing, BIG DEFENSE -- all the same.

Why is it only particular PROGRAMS PAID WITH MY TAX DOLLARS are considered socialiaed and BAD, while many others are not.

Posted by: kare1 | February 10, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

To Fred Hiatt:

I oppose the use of vouchers in DC as well as my state of Ohio. And I am joined in that opinion by my wife, who taught for 32 years in the Cincinnati Public schools.
I have not read all the reasons for the Obama administration's
opposition to vouchers, but you can bet it was not a snap decision.
Of all men (and women) who have been in the White House in the past 50 years, the President would be the most in favor of any factor that will improve educational opportunities for DC's and the nation's under- privileged and poorer students. But I believe that he wants that opportunity for ALL the students.
Democracy in essense demands that all students (or citizens)
have equal opportunities, where government economic assistance
is a big factor. How can the municipal, state or Federal governments specify a favored few? While the elimination of vouchers is hard on those who would obtain them, it's so much harder on the vast majority of those who miss out.
If there are to be vouchers in a system, is there a fair way to
qualify for them? I worry that vouchers are at the core elitist. The
system will encourage those parents with some sort of "pull" to be
the more -favored by the selection committee. Would a lottery
system, one ticket per student, with a drawing by the First Lady
work any better? Who knows?
This we do know: vouchers are a cancer to the principle of
public education, open to all students.

Posted by: miramar50 | February 10, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

kare1 - Are you claiming that the country would be a better place if everyone wanted to be as selfish as they wanted? What about the people who take those buses instead of driving - are they complaining about paying for the roads you use? Are they complaining about the roads that the supermarkets use to haul the inexpensive food that you buy? Are they complaining about having paid for your education back in the day, or the police forces that keep you safe, or the defense that keeps our borders safe?

The old, tired, paper-thin argument of "I should only have to pay for what I use" is incredibly vapid. If you don't like having to pay taxes, move somewhere without a strong central government, and see how you like living there.

Oh, and opposing food stamps... now there's a humane stance. Screw those folks, they can starve so we can all save a dime, right?

Posted by: charlesbakerharris | February 10, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

After 50 years of trying to 'fix' public education, we should look at it for what it is: a failure. It's track record of decreasing quality, increasing costs, and resistance to change would even embarass General Motors.
Do private school offer better education results, even in the limited tests (which were designed to fail) for vouchers? Yes. Can private schools offer smaller classrooms, better teacher incentives, more parental control, and more variety in teaching methods? Yes. Do all kids learn the same way? No. Does the public school try to teach all kids the same way? Yes. Can private schools do this for the same price we currently pay for public education? Yes.
With those as fairly clear truths, the only way to oppose universal vouchers is to not care about the children, but instead want to protect a union teacher job or prevent people from making choices you don't want them to make.
In every other measurable sense, more kids would get a better education with vouchers.

Posted by: natecar | February 10, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Well Kare 1, its good to know that at least one individual won't be collecting their social security benefits according to your statements since it is socialism. I went to elementary public schools in California when they were considered good in the late fifites, but they still did not compare to the small and poor Catholic elementary school that I attended from the 6th grade on to junior high school. Later, I attended Catholic high school too. I will tell you that I am so very grateful for the education that I was provided. Aside from learning about my religion, I received an education in basic skills in math, English, reading, history and music, etc,. I learned self-discipline, respect for myself and others, organizational skills, manners and etiquete to name just a few skills. These skills have served me all of my life and I am 67 years old. When I attended college, the skills I learned in Catholic schools helped to learn, study and graduate. Our current educational system in elementary school and high school is dysmal and dysfunctional. My grandchildren all attend parochial schools and in some cases, I gladly pay for them because their parents cannot afford it. Parents care about their children's education now, they don't have time for politicians and administrators to fix the problems 5 or 10 years from now. My grandchildren are not experiments.

Posted by: Listening2 | February 10, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Why stop on vouchers?
Why not supply private schools (including parochial schools) with paper supplies, non-religious textbooks, and even teachers.
On the last point, the private schools would have to pay the religion teacher.

Posted by: edlharris | February 10, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Vouchers are elitist and illegal. They undermine our public education system. The ills of the USA's education system is just a reflection of the ills of our society. The US started its decline when political power was handed to the corporations, and the Republicans decided that their main task was to support the corporations against the citizens. Their ideology is based on the idea that government is the problem, and since it is broken they are not going to bother to fix it, no, they are going to rely on the free market and the corporations to do it for us. We now see how well that works. We see the financial sector screaming bloody murder over a plan to lend tuition money directly to students and save the citizens 80 billion in fees to private banks. Oh, the financial world is up in arms. How dare the government take that money away from them? Their lobbyists are working overtime to persuade Congress to let them keep siphoning off that 80 billion a year in fees for doing something that the government can do just fine, thank you.

The education system for the inner cities will improve when the opportunities for inner city residents improves. People trapped in ghettos with poor public transportation and no jobs are not going to be interested in education when they see nobody around them getting ahead no matter how good their grades are.

The education system will improve when the corporations that own the media stop encouraging, promoting, and carrying rap artists, TV shows, and movies that disparage education and women, who glorify ghetto culture, guns, prostitution, and drugs. That edifice of conservative values, Rupert Murdoch, owns Fox, which has some of the worst culture-degrading shows on TV today. This is what our culture and society has come to...a nationwide ghetto culture, where education is for the nerds and everyone thinks they are owed a living and it is cool to wear your pants around your ankles and curse in public.

Thank the corporations who moved all the good jobs to China for the decline of America. Thank the corporations for subverting and corrupting our government so that it doesn't work anymore. They don't care, they can make money anywhere in the world now. The US can turn into a backwater and they will continue to prosper. This is a sad, sad state of affairs, and will continue until the people of the US rise up and take control of their government once again.

Posted by: Chagasman | February 10, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

"Vouchers are elitist and illegal."

They're, um, pretty clearly not illegal. If elitism is taking inner-city kids and giving them an opportunity to go to a good school, then hell, call me an elitist.

"They undermine our public education system."

Our public education system sucks. Why are we worried about undermining it, exactly? Shake it up if you want improvement.

I'm not going to quote the rest of your stupid post, seeing as your first two sentences started off as dumb as they did.

Posted by: charlesbakerharris | February 10, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

The public schools must accept every student and deal with them. My problem with the voucher system is access,public money going to schools that pick and choose their students. University systems have no requirement to educate all comers so students have to meet requirements before they can even get a Pell grant...not really comparable to public schools.

Posted by: clary916 | February 10, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

fr natecar:

>...Can private schools offer smaller classrooms, better teacher incentives, more parental control, and more variety in teaching methods? Yes...<

Do private schools pick and choose the students that they want, blatantly IGNORING the others, thereby depriving ALL of equal education?

YES.

Posted by: Alex511 | February 10, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

In response to your analogy involving Georgetown and ND - while I agree that the use of Pell grants for religious Universities is completely reasonable, I feel you neglect one point in the transitioning the argument to high schools. With a college one has essentially unlimited options due to the fact that they can and often do become residents at the school, regardless of location. They have the option of attending any school nationwide. Generally, high school students are not residents at the school they are attending in that they usually live at home with their families. As a result the student is limited by whatever options are available in the local marketplace, which could provide them only with a choice of school doctrines that are counter to their beliefs.

Posted by: mrmcross | February 10, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

This would mean funding madrassas with vouchers as well. Sure you want to do that?

Posted by: inono | February 10, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

His choice argument doesn't answer the problems caused by different religious groups that then demand politicians do the religious bidding of their church or face expulsion. It seems that we are protecting religion at the expense of secular choice when the first amendment strictly prohibits that. Then there is the problem of religious bigoty against the secular written into many state constitutions. Mr Hiatts casual interpretation of the first amendment ignores many of the facts behind the issue.

Posted by: tryreason | February 10, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse


Sure Hiatt, let's turn America's public education system into another Wall Street business.

And to get Religion, Inc. to go along with it, we'll throw them a bone and let them in on the voucher scam too.

That'll fix everything right? You pathetic worthless rat-faced traitorous Republican money-grubbing piece of journalistic filth.

..

Posted by: DEFJAX | February 10, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

How many of the posters here who oppose the use of vouchers to rescue poor children from the hellholes that are most of the DC public schools, have children enrolled in them? Please tell us the name of your child's school.

Posted by: Yankeesfan1 | February 10, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Hiatt said,"Many people agree with bigfish2, both on constitutional separation-of-church-and-state grounds and because they just don’t want tax money going to religious education. I get this. But I disagree, for the same reason it doesn’t bother me when college students spend their federal Pell grants at Georgetown or Notre Dame."

Big difference, Mr. Hiatt students in elementary, middle and senior level Roman Catholic schools have Roman Catholic Religious Dogma drummed into them. Vouchers for religious indoctrination -- Unacceptable!

Posted by: lufrank1 | February 10, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse


I am not trying to express my opinion, just summarizing comments: who cares for kids are for vouchers, who cares for something else - against them

Posted by: Ilya3 | February 10, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I can only imagine the outrage if say a Nation of Islam school was getting school vouchers. Back in the early 90's HUD caught hell over awarding the Fruit of Islam security contracts at a few public housing projects. They actually performed quite well and were praised by little old Jewish ladies out in a Coney Island development.

Posted by: MerrillFrank | February 10, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse


If theses schools were going ever to be
"improved" it would've been done by now.

All over the country. Better save some than none. More time before we are the third world country we're heading for.

Not the least because our "media" came to be handled talent like Hiatt.

Posted by: whistling | February 10, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Parochial schools do a good job educating children because they don't stand for the nonsense that goes on in public schools. Public schools should take their system of throwing out abusive children, that stop others from learning and make it part of the public school system. Yes there are laws requiring all to receive an education, but this could be a teacher in an auditorium listening to times tables, ABCs etc. repetitively. End the rubber rooms and put the unqualified teachers with the abusive students. Wah, they will drop out, not if they're quiet with the chance to return to regular classrooms.

Posted by: jameschirico | February 10, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

There is entirely too much deference given to superstition in the name of religion right now. The return of know-nothingism as a force in American politics is a dangerous sign in a complex world. Bad education leads to bad policy leads eventually to national impoverishment. Instead of looting the public school budget to give money to the churches, we should get serious about education. The US led the world in developing global communication networks and the internet. Instead of using these resources to educate and advance ourselves, we use it to sell widgets. (Not that there's anyting wrong with that.) The failure to support education leads to scams like No Child Left Behind, where diagnostic tests are used to penalize schools rather than figure out which ones need more support.

Anyway, we need to move self-consciously out of the age of superstition. Putting our money into charter education--which is often religious-based--is a huge mistake. Hiatt is just wrong.

Posted by: scientist1 | February 10, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Fred Hiatt:
We know that you don't give a hoot about school vouchers. Your editorial on yesterday was just another Jewish neo-con hate President Obama rant much like that of fellow Washington Post neo-con hate Obama club member Michael Gerson today. The old bigot Krauthammer marched in lockstep and posted his hate Obama piece on Monday. Krauthammer is obsessed with his blood hate for the first African American President in the history of the United States and we expect much more hate for the Prsident from this spit drooling old bigot on your editorial pages. Any chance Krauthammer's hatred and obsession could be race hatred?

The Washington Post hate Obama Jewish neo-con posse started riding hard and spewing hate for the President on the first day that he took the oath. What's up with that Fred. How do you hate a guy the first day that he starts a new job? Why do Washington Post neo-cons all hate the President's guts? Are WP neo-cons coordinating their hate the President rants?

Posted by: DCSage1 | February 10, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Most parochial schools take students that are not from their faith. When religious indoctrination is given they get study periods. The argument made has no merit whatsoever.

Posted by: jameschirico | February 10, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Most parochial schools take students that are not from their faith. When religious indoctrination is given they get study periods. The argument made has no merit whatsoever.

Posted by: jameschirico | February 10, 2010 2:36 PM
_______________
No.
Non catholic students take the religion classes, especially at the elementary level where they do not have the staff to give a study period.

Posted by: edlharris | February 10, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Vouchers subsidize parochial schools that routinely discriminate against gays and lesbians--in employment as teachers and principals, in admitting LGBT students or expelling them once their sexuality has come to the administration's attention, and even expelling students for having gay and lesbian parents(!) or denying gay and lesbian parents the privilege of serving on their school PTAs boards.

If Catholic primary and secondary schools--and other private schools under the control of a religious denomination--opt to ignore basic civil rights protections, I can't stop that. But if that's so, then neither should funds that includes money from gay and lesbian taxpayers be used to promote such policies or lend legitimacy to those institution's obnoxious practices.

It's quite odd how many Post editorials correctly exhort governments and legislative bodies to address anti-gay discrimination with respect to military service, access to civil marriage, hate crimes and protections for fair and equal treatment in hiring, job advancement and place of residence-- yet on this one issue of vouchers, the board seems so enamored by those who perpetuate the intolerance and injustice the Post claims to oppose.

It makes all those other pro-equality editorials ring awfully hollow. It's time for the editors to address this glaring inconsistency. The ends of aiding at-risk students whose families cannot pay the steep tuition of private schools may be admirable and understandable--but in respect to the US Constitution, this goal should not be pursued through programs that systematically and ruthlessly put other classes of citizens at a disadvantage.

Posted by: mitchw7959 | February 10, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Easy: Separation of Church and State.

Easier: Separation of any stinking Republican from me.

Posted by: EdSantaFe | February 10, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I think everyone agrees that all kids deserve a good education. The question is at one point do you say to failing schools enough is enough. People who support vouchers are focused on what is best for the kids--that is, getting an education. Those opposed are typically the horrid teachers or their unions. Also, I find it rich when people like Obama, who lived in bad neighborhoods but opted his kids out of the bad schools, force others to stay at those bad schools. It's sad really and totally hypocritical. Basically, this is how Democrats subject our most vulnerable children to a life of welfarism like their parents (Dems do it because they want them to vote Democratic). It is really racism at its worst.

Posted by: columbiaheights | February 10, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

The best cure is to abolish the teachers unions and ALL public schools.

let private enterprise take over the education system (Charter schools). they could receive the $$$ directly from the local taxing districts/states.

All union teachers could apply for the numerous teaching positions which private companies will be offering. Of course those who are lousy teachers will be weeded out.

Posted by: frankn1 | February 10, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I just watched a re-run of a West Wing episode that dealt with exactly this topic, in DC no less! The author's response is good. There is very little difference between vouchers and Pell grants. So if we have to live with tax payer $ supporting THIS choice, what's the difference in supporting ALL CHOICES? How do you choose which choices are choosable?

Posted by: KJR1 | February 10, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

The major problem with school vouchers is that I have yet to see a system of vouchers that would cover the cost of an education at all most all private school. Typically at best vouchers cover about 70% of the cost of lowest cost (frequently religious) schooling, thereby pricing out low income families while subsidizing more affluent families education cost. Show me a voucher system that will cover the median cost of private education in an area and will be available to all students of low performimg schools and I will be all for it. Unfortuanately that will either reducing funding for even well performing school or require some serious tax increases.

Posted by: frmike | February 10, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

A agree that we should be putting our energy and our tax dollars into public schools to that all can benefit. The problem is that government, and in particular our Federal government has proven itself incompetent in managing any and all of its programs. We have, over the years, allowed incompetence to become the standard. States, which really control K - 12 education have not done any better as they allow local jurisdiction to design educations programs that do not educate. I worry that we are losing the war against ignorance. Since the real Dept of Education was formalized we have poured billions into education and the trend continues to worsen. We need to seek out the root problem (management and teachers) and fix them first.

Posted by: staterighter | February 10, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

It’s not about religion; the religious argument is merely a straw dog when it comes to the school voucher debate. Why do voucher opponents fight against vouchers for ANY school, religious or not? Why not let vouchers be spent at non-religiously-affiliated private schools or even home schooling? The reason for fighting against school vouchers is simply a political one. Voucher opponents, mostly Liberal ideologues, know that it is imperative they have control of a single system that can indoctrinate our children in their belief system. Of course, there is the teachers’ unions that know competition would be deleterious to their power base.

As Mr. Hiatt has noted, government funds are already being spent at religiously-affiliated colleges, but it’s more than just Pell Grants. Federal student loans, state government grants and scholarships, GI Bill benefits, and government research grant monies are all being spent at religiously-affiliated institutions of higher learning with no damage to the misapplied principle of “separation of church and state.” No one belief system is being sponsored by the state since parents get to choose where the money is spent. I even suspect educational quality will carry more weight with parents than religious doctrine when it comes to which school to choose for their children. I also believe that an ancillary benefit of a voucher system will be to improve the quality of public schools as they will have to compete for students, much like state land-grant colleges have to compete for students based on a quality education at a lower price.

Another bogus argument against school vouchers that needs to be put to rest is the one where opponents state they don’t want their tax dollars spent at religiously affiliated schools. First, as noted above, public tax dollars are already being spent at such schools. More importantly, if they can demand their tax dollars not be spent in a way they oppose, then why cannot I demand the opposite? I don’t want my tax dollars spent on a great many things, such as on a corrupt and inept public school system, so why should my wishes be ignored?

The argument should be on how we can improve our overall educational process in our country. We have done a pretty good job on higher education, which includes a good public/private mix of schools. However, the foundation of our system, the primary and secondary schools, are floundering because we won’t consider anything but the current outmoded public school model.

Posted by: braunt | February 10, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Hiatt wrote:

"Many people agree with bigfish2, both on constitutional separation-of-church-and-state grounds and because they just don’t want tax money going to religious education. I get this. But I disagree, for the same reason it doesn’t bother me when college students spend their federal Pell grants at Georgetown or Notre Dame. The key is student choice. Those students decide where to go, and where to spend their Pell grants -- or their D.C. vouchers."

Actually, the issue turns on the question of religious *instruction* students receive, not the religious orientation of the school. I believe students at Georgetown or Notre Dame, unlike grade-schoolers, are much more disposed to consider church doctrine critically, and have greater confidence in their own beliefs, whatever they may be. Vouchers for church-affiliated primary and secondary schools are a bad idea.

Posted by: gmeagher | February 10, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

You disagree, but you are wrong. Taking my tax money to support a religion I find abhorrant is a gross abuse of my religious liberty. People like hiatt and those who are realy just loking for taxpayer handouts to their religious groups don't think this through. -- How would you feel if those vouchers were used in Madras? Or let u just say satanists set up a school, same as a Catholic school but kids are taught to worship satan and follw the tennet of evil intheir daily lives. That' ok? How about some of the LDS folks? Or Hare Krishnas? Or Moonies? Want your tax dollars going to fund that? Those people are free to worship as their conscieence moves them. They are not free to force me to pay for it.

Another key point those loking to fund their church at public expense always forget -- when you take money from the state you allow the state into your church. It is a 2 way street.

Posted by: John1263 | February 10, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

"Now, I think this is more of a close call than a slam dunk. You can make a case, for example, that the religious instruction in high schools is more pervasive than at colleges, and so the Pell grant analogy shouldn’t apply. But because I regard the current situation as a scandal and an emergency, I’m inclined to decide the close calls in favor of choice. After all, we’re talking here about children otherwise condemned to attend schools where most students are not even being taught to proficiency, and most don't make it to graduation.That means really bright children are being robbed of a future, through no fault of their own.

I’m as encouraged as anyone by early signs of improvement, as D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee works to change the system. But it’s not acceptable to ask parents to wait five years for things to get better....."
***********************

Very slippery arguments here, Mr. Hiatt. Although I had to chuckle a bit when you deigned to observe that your correspondent had called your attention "another serious objection," as if separation of church and state weren't THE serious objection, I'm at least glad you're willing to recognize the real distinction between Pell grants supporting nominally religious colleges vs. federal funding of primary education.

That's a serious distinction. You, however, seek to "balance" the risks of secular, federal support for overtly religious institutions by attempting to pose it in the light of delays in improving but still deficient public schools. That sounds noble; you say you're just looking at this as the right thing to do for the kids.

But you're neglecting to tell the other side of the story here. The school deficiencies have largely come from inadequate funding, in the case of D.C., by federal sources. You know as well as I do that the conservative members of our polity have done everything possible to "starve the beast." It is conservative fiscal policies, especially since Reagan, that have created the horrors seen in large-city public schools.

I hate to sound cynical, but haven't we seen this strategy somewhere before? "Government is the problem and we're going to make sure it fails to prove it." Do you really think folks don't see a naked play that de-funds public school education thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy leading to a "best choice" that succeeds in breaking down the legitimate barriers between church and state?

Do you really expect us to take your "tough call" seriously?

Posted by: abqcleve | February 10, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Why should someone be reimbursed for sending their child to a private school? The argument seems to be that since they pay taxes for education they should get some of it back if they don't use public schools. Well, I have no children in any school, and here in PA I still pay school tax. This is a substaintial amount, almost five times higher than my property tax. The argument is that I receive benefit from my neighbors's children being educated. From this perspective, all citizens should pay school tax with no rebate just becuse they personally don't want to use the facilities.

Posted by: csintala79 | February 10, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

let's get real about school vouchers -the biggest proponent is the religious right joined hand in hand by the southern racists who send their children to "christian" schools -- ex-senator hollings of south carolina used to point out that pre-integration SC had a handful of private schools; post-integration there was more than 1100! A $5500 voucher barely pays for a third of the cost of a good private school --but it sure goes a long way supporting church schools....inner-city schools can be fixed, but teachers and parents wont admit/commit to what should be done....

Posted by: KENMAREINC | February 10, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

A JEWISH lawyer friend who argued the ACLU's losing side of the Cleveland voucher case before the Supreme Court put it this way:

I don't want my tax money to pay for an education at a religious school---he'd probably oppose PELL grants; but if there were school vouchers I'd want two for my kids.

So there you go, at the core is not the quality of the academic and character education of the children; but the religious bigotry of the adults.

The founding fathers expected schools to be places of character and run by people affiliated with religious orders..MAINE had a religious constitution that prohibited the Government from regulating these schools, even though they were subsidized by local taxes and income producing properties.

A bit of religion won't hurt and will certainly help form the character of the wild drug using and violent youth that fill our public schools....why is it that almost one-fourth(22%) of the students in Maine's public schools are classified as SPED and need IEP's; and most of those are for behavioral disorders????

Yet when the same child is removed from the public school and placed in a Christian or Catholic or other private school, these disorders largely go away?

Do you even have a clue how much this dysfunctional environment in the public school costs?

Or how many of you know about that Catholic School in Chicago which has a mostly Jewish enrollment....some in S.F. have mostly Chinese or Asian?

Give parents the money normally squandered by public schools and their damned unions as vouchers and let the parents decide what's best for their child!

Posted by: Common_Cents1 | February 10, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

No to snding TAX money to Private Enterprises..

If their school systems are so much better.
So should the price.

Amazing that Insurance Companies can raise rates 80% a year. THen you hear all the Republican Shill justifiy it.

BUT have the Public Education system raise it 5% to cover real costs, ther is a near riot from the Republican RICH..

ISA

Posted by: Fei_Hu | February 10, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Most parochial schools take students that are not from their faith. When religious indoctrination is given they get study periods. The argument made has no merit whatsoever.

Posted by: jameschirico | February 10, 2010 2:36 PM
_______________
No.
Non catholic students take the religion classes, especially at the elementary level where they do not have the staff to give a study period.

Posted by: edlharris
===========================================================================
The last time I read the piece Catholic and Methodist, not Evangelical or other faiths mentioned.

Posted by: jameschirico | February 10, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

The fact of the matter is that President Obama like all other Democrats is hostage to the Education Lobby that thrives on beuracracy and inefficiency. The sad thing about all this is that the parents who probably enthusiastically supported Obama for president ended up voting for the candidate who cancelled their child's best "HOPE"/chance for a bright future.

On a another note, the Republicans in the last 20 years have done more for DC than the Democrats have in the last 30+. From the Control Board to Vouchers, please check me out.

Posted by: rlgordon7 | February 10, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Statistcs clearly indicate that up to 90% of all home schooling is done in Christian homes, and that the firm agenda of the Christian Right is to make vouchers legal and mandatory.
All should read the following:
From 1988 to 1993, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences sponsored an interdisciplinary study known as The Fundamentalism Project, the largest such study ever done. More than 100 scholars from all over the world took part, reporting on every imaginable kind of fundamentalism. And what they discovered was that the agenda of all fundamentalist movements in the world is virtually identical, regardless of religion or culture.
They identified five characteristics shared by virtually all fundamentalisms.
The fundamentalists' agenda starts with insistence that their rules must be made to apply to all people, and to all areas of life. There can be no separation of church and state, or of public and private areas of life.
The second agenda item is really at the top of the list, and it's vulgarly simple: Men are on top. Men are bigger and stronger, and they rule not only through physical strength but also and more importantly through their influence on the laws and rules of the land. Men set the boundaries. Men define the norms, and men enforce them. They also define women, and they define them through narrowly conceived biological functions. Women are to be supportive wives, mothers, and homemakers.
A third item follows from the others. Since there is only one right picture of the world, one right set of beliefs, and one right set of roles for men, women, and children, it is imperative that this picture and these rules be communicated precisely to the next generation. Therefore, fundamentalists must control education by controlling textbooks and teaching styles, deciding what may and may not be taught.
Fourth, fundamentalists want to return to a nostalgic vision of a golden age that never really existed. Several of the scholars observed a strong and deep resemblance between fundamentalism and fascism. Both have almost identical agendas. Men are on top, women are subservient, there is one rigid set of rules, with police and military might to enforce them, and education is tightly controlled by the state.
The fifth point is foundational. Fundamentalists deny history in a radical and idiosyncratic way. Fundamentalists know that culture shapes everything it touches; the times we live in color how we think, what we value, and the kind of people we become.
So for fundamentalists, their scriptures fell straight from heaven in a leather-bound book, every jot and tittle intact. The fifth and final characteristic of fundamentalism is the inerrancy of their supposed 'sacred text.”

Posted by: cfr666 | February 10, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Vouchers will not make anything better for the vast majority of students. The students whose parents would be likely to take advantage of vouchers already have a huge advantage over other students: their parents care enough to know their options. Having worked in the schools for many years, that's the biggest difference-maker there is. As long as folks like Hiatt continue to blame the schools first, parents who take little to no interest in their children are left blameless. Parental involvement is not a panacea, but it is absolutely necessary. Even a successful voucher program would have to count on parental involvement. The problem is that current proposals seem more intent on taking kids out of the public schools than increasing their chances of success in whatever school they are in.

Also I fail to see why the objection of a Methodist to Catholic schooling is not important. Bart Stupak is pushing to have his religious beliefs determine our insurance market. Is Stupak's desire to avoid government subsidies for behavior he does not approve of more important than your reader? We're dealing with voluntary behaviors in both cases. The primary objection is a religious one.

Since the Post has never objected to the Hyde amendment (that I'm aware of) it would seem this is a terrible inconsistency. My usual assumption when someone is inconsistent with their aims is that they aren't telling the whole truth. I think in Hiatt's mind this is more about kneecapping the public schools. I find it laughable that someone who offers as little the national conversation would go after the public schools. Public school teachers make far less than Mr. Hiatt and do a far better job, even the ones in DC.

Posted by: jjhare | February 10, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Why not remove completely the federal, or central, government from educating the children of each state and leave the decisions of how to educate and how to fund education to each state?

Posted by: jdmca | February 10, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

This is the weirdest series of posts. I, a fairly middle of the road lifelong Democrat, am totally unable to understand the hysteria here....I am a Jewish convert who was educated at a Catholic school for girls. One of my classmates was also Jewish. The nuns were terrific, well educated, totally dedicated and tolerant to a fault. Plus, I learned to read and write (Gasp!!!) And then I went on for a masters and PhD in biology. No one crammed religion down my neck, no one said I had to reject Darwin's theories (they were actually taught without caveat). But there was a lot of emphasis on developing all sorts of useful values (kindness, sensitivity to others, modesty, hard work, honesty, discipline, tolerance, a love of learning). All these traits made their way into the center of my being. My mother (a widow on a Marine captain's pension) slept on a cot in the hall so that we would have enough money to pay the tuition. Her sacrifice was well rewarded by the many-faceted success of her two daughters. I wish that others might have the opportunities that my mother gave me -- without so much struggle.

Vouchers are bad????

Come on people! Vouchers are a worthwhile experiment. Arguing against vouchers is the same kind of blindsidedness that led Republicans to reject a government-based health insurance alternative. Open you minds folks. Stop buying the party line. Give vouchers a try.

Posted by: maryellen1 | February 10, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

This is simple; if you CHOOSE a religious education, you therefor CHOOSE to forego tax payer funding.
Its deeply offensive to me that anyone feels entitle to MY money to fund religions that I find hateful and exclusionary.

Posted by: jeffc6578 | February 10, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Why should MY taxes pay for Catholic school?

There is no argument you can make that holds water.

It's bad enough that all churches are parasites who don't have to pay a cent for the public services they receive - now we have to pay the tuition of the students who go there, too?

I went to Catholic school for 12 years and it is NOT just an "eduction," it's an indoctrination. I want nothing to do with it and that includes paying taxes for it - and as an American it is MY right to be free from being forced to support other people's woman-hating, gay-hating, pedophile-enabling belief system.

Posted by: solsticebelle | February 10, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone think that the fear of god leads to higher test scores?

Most educators, either public or private, were trained side by side at the university level, so that's not it either.

What accounts for the stats? It's probably selective admissions, and less due process required to remove non-hackers who don't want to work hard enough to achieve. In public school, the non-hackers must be educated, at the cost of the stats. That's life.

The seperation of church and state must be upheld. Without that, we are looking down the barrel of a Theocracy, with a large side of aggressive nationalism.

There is no way the author would support an Islamic school getting vouchers, unless you got to review their texts and stick your nose in big time.

I can't believe that churches would even want money from the state, considering the strings it comes with. This really boils down to people using religion as an excuse for a tax cut, at the expense of the greater good.

Posted by: hatchlaw | February 10, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Vouchers for madrasses? Or Christian academies that teach creationism? Not with my tax money.

I have a friend who sent his son to a "school" in McLean that taught 5th graders in their "science" class that there was no such thing as a dinosaur. That the fossils in museums were just "funny shaped rocks". They taught this drivel because it conflicted with their religious belief based on a literal interpretation of Genesis.

I do NOT want this kind of idiocy funded with taxpayer dollars. If people want to raise ignoramuses they should pay for it themselves.

Posted by: dpc2003 | February 10, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

“The region's per-student expenditure was about $14,240 in 2009, using comparable numbers from D.C. Public Schools, Montgomery and Prince George's county schools, and Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria City schools.” (http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/Taxpayer-cost-per-student-soars-in-region-8055773-52310762.html#ixzz0fB8Imryh)

The private school I am considering sending my daughter to costs about $8,500 per year, which includes tuition, books, and fees. And please don’t tell me the cost differential is because the public schools have to take in special needs children. The private school I am looking at also takes in special needs children. The major differences in costs result from things that have little to do with education – bloated management overhead and high construction costs involved in public school systems. Without competition, the public schools systems have little incentive to become more efficient with their management or overhead.

I would suggest that a $5,000 per student voucher would do much to provide such competition to the public schools. Spurring an increase in private schools would remove some of the burden to taxpayers of public construction; taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for ever-increasing infrastructure that costs a small fortune to maintain. The public schools might even feel pressure to cut some of the make-work management overhead and put the money into direct education costs instead.

As for the comments suggesting that voucher money might go to Muslim or LDS schools – SO WHAT! Any school would have to meet minimum educational requirement set by the state, as is the case now with any private school. After that, they can teach what they want as long as it is within the law. Hey, if the anti-religionists of the world want to form their own school, so be it. I really believe the strategic use of school vouchers would go a long way to ameliorate much of the vitriolic arguing that surrounds the educational discussion today.

Posted by: braunt | February 10, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

"...two arguments of voucher opponents: that we should concentrate on reforming public schools, so that all children benefit, not just those lucky enough to get vouchers; and that by allowing the children (and families) with the most initiative to opt out, we further impoverish the schools for those left behind."
=================
Both are horrible arguments. The only possible way to reform schools is through vouchers because that puts parents in charge as the school's customers. Otherwise, the politicians and the bureaucrats run the schools and they are totally non-responsive to parent needs. As to the second point, so be it. That argument applies to any aspect of our private life. By allowing parents with the most initiative to plan for, save, and purchase their own house, we leave further behind those parents who lack that same initiative. But we also get housing infinitely more aligned with and responsive to the needs and wants of individual parents. Vouchers are a brilliant idea because they are a small step towards the real solution which is eliminating any public involvement in education. Miserable performance and squalor follow any public program precisely because they take free individuals out of the picture and replace them with politicians and bureaucrats.

Posted by: Rational4 | February 10, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Catholic schools have changed greatly since the 1960s and 1970s; they are now an important political tool of the far right. In my experience in a local Catholic high school, students were told that parents who voted for the current president were committing a mortal sin and going to hell; they are taught that birth control is so failure prone that it is pointless to use; they are taught that war and capital punishment are acceptable but that birth control pills kill human beings. Teachers are allowed to proudly display Republican bumper stickers but strictly forbidden to reveal democratic leanings. Tax dollars should never be used to support this kind of partisan nonsense.

Posted by: levarfan | February 10, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Vouchers in general are a horrible idea.

The rich children will go to the best schools with the best education, and the poorest families will go to the worst schools with the worst education. Because even the free market system, somebody has to be the "best" and "worst".

Vouchers are some of the last nails the rich elite are trying to nail in the coffin of the underclass.

Don't fall for their Trojan Horse.

Posted by: camasca | February 10, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

it's a shame when public schools have to use national security as a means to get pork money to start public "charter" schools.

maryland, the state with the highest per capita income in the nation did this.

instead of doing the tough thing ... and use state income tax to fund public schools instead of just using property taxes and federal funding they get by begging the federal government.

i bet maryland has the highest percent of their student population going to private schools.

see instead of maintaining such a flat state income tax structure -- the richest in the state can afford to send their kids to private schools.

and well, the public school kids just get f-'d.

when 70% of all households in america make less than $70k and 95% of all households in america make less than $100k...

it makes sense to raise the income tax on both the federal and state level for those earning more than $250k per year, large corporations, cap the estate tax where it is now, tax all earned and unearned income the same rate (at whatever rate category the household falls into)...

when the rich run away with the middle class pensions, 401k savings, and are allowed to gamble with cash borrowed from the federal reserve... the economy ends up in a depression.

Posted by: FranknErnest | February 10, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

"Vouchers in general are a horrible idea.

The rich children will go to the best schools with the best education, and the poorest families will go to the worst schools with the worst education. Because even the free market system, somebody has to be the "best" and "worst"."

And this is why people should know what they're talking about before posting. Too bad that's a pipe dream.

Posted by: charlesbakerharris | February 10, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

I have just read through some of the most ridiculous objections to vouchers, particularly those that think our private schools actually want or need them. I pay public school taxes in Mont Co and pay/paid private school tuitions for five area top private schools (from $8k pre-K to $30k/yr upper school).

The pressures on the private schools are actually for diversity of students, and the only other way to admit diversity is via the parents (me) funding tuition assistance for others, which we are also happy to do. All this is about is fair choice, quality of education and social diversity. If students and parents don't want faith-based, they go down the street to secular private schools (I prefer faith-based, but our children are happily in both).

But not allowing choice to these DC families who can and want to excel but can't afford to participate in these offerings of our society is the lowest of lows, as represented by the hateful attitudes represented by many of these selfish bloggers.

Posted by: freemarketer | February 10, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I am happy for my tax dollars to give children from poor families a better chance for education in a private school. I frankly can't see that a child would be more scarred for life in a Catholic school than in some of the underperforming, unsafe and badly-in-need of renovation DC schools.

Posted by: SavingGrace | February 10, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

I really wonder what the problem people have with teacher unions, or any union for that manner. Teacher pay is not that high compared to the private sector, I speak from experience having left industry to teach. I teach because I want to help students improve themselves. Perhaps if parents, religous leaders, and politicians would let teachers teach and not try to limit how the teaching is done( NCLB and false test score relationships) and concern themselves more in why there is a problem, maybe something good will come of it. I am not opposed to vouchers, but they must come with the same restraints that public schools have, in other words, private schools must accept all students no matter what their abilities or disabilities are. They should also have to come under the same limitations on what to teach and in some cases how to teach each subject.

Posted by: science2010 | February 10, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

It is sadly ironic that a topic on education would attract so many incoherent comments.

There is nothing in the constitution that prescribes a "separation of church and state." The only reference to religion is found in the first amendment, and all it says is this:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

That's it.

Posted by: RossOdom | February 10, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

If we really wanted competition. Then the competition is the performance of the student. So kids should be able to take a national test, and regardless of income, if you score the highest, then you go to the best school with the best teachers.

And an "IQ" type test would be the best test.

If there's a tie, then there's a lottery.

Lower scoring students go to lesser schools.

I don't think that the "pro voucher" people would like this. They want applications to the best schools, or "outside the system" schools, based mainly on money, not aptitude, since they can pay for it, and they want some tax dollars too.

Of course, we can just try to make education available to all, and try to provide the equal and excellent education for all. I like that idea better.

Posted by: camasca | February 10, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Hiatt,

You say: "I disagree [about inappropriate support of religion], for the same reason it doesn’t bother me when college students spend their federal Pell grants at Georgetown or Notre Dame. The key is student choice. Those students decide where to go, and where to spend their Pell grants -- or their D.C. vouchers."

I respectfully disagree with you. Your comparison is invalid. Nobody forces any student to go to any college or university, public or private. But the state (in this case the District of Columbia) compels every student up to the age of 16 to attend an elementary or secondary school. In compelling student attendance, it seems to me the state is not entitled to substitute a religious education for a public one.

I ask you to revisit your position and revise your opinion.

Posted by: blaneyboy | February 10, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Separation of church and state is one of the basic principles of this country. Subsidizing sending kids to religious schools, when they are often subject to involuntary indoctrination, is wrong.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | February 10, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

On Monday I posted that 15 years ago in Louisiana when it was ranked 46th in the Union, they were spending something like $8,000 per student in public schools, when parents could send their children to a good private school for $6,000. The citizens of our state would have saved roughly $2,000 per student simply by going to a voucher system.

As to religion in schools, my first reaction is that we already have religion in schools -- atheism (no god, no religion, no zip, which is the definition of atheism.) . . . . . . . My second reaction is that Hiatt is right. The key is not religion but, "The key is STUDENT CHOICE. Those students decide where to go, and where to spend their Pell grants -- or their D.C. vouchers. Religiously-affiliated schools are simply one of their options. The government isn’t dictating, or directly subsidizing, religious education. It’s subsidizing choice."

I'm a devout Christian, but I'd rather send my children to a Muslim school than an atheistic school, which is where the state is forcing them to go now, where ACCORDING TO THE ATHEISTIC RELIGION there is a vacuum from god. . . . . . . Why can't we just have a choice?

Posted by: Here2day | February 11, 2010 12:14 AM | Report abuse

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