Jay Mathews is always worth reading because he’s deeply committed to kids and education and he’s intellectually honest. Here he writes about the lack of accountability in the Washington, D.C. voucher program.
If I were a D.C. parent with little money and a child in a bad public school, I would happily accept a taxpayer-supported voucher to send my kid to a private school. But I still don’t think voucher programs are a good use of education dollars, particularly after reading a startling story on The Washington Post’s front page Sunday. My colleagues Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown revealed that the $133 million appropriated for vouchers in the District since 2004 have gone to private schools with no need to report publicly how well their students are doing. Some of those schools have dubious curricula and inadequate facilities. At least eight of the 52 schools with voucher students are not accredited.
Jay goes on to say that private schools would never accept meaningful accountability of the kind that parents and taxpayers should demand. It’s one thing when the voucher program is small but eventually, accountability will follow:
Only 1,584 D.C. students are receiving vouchers, just 2 percent of all publicly funded students in the city. The lack of oversight Layton and Brown exposed is disturbing, but it affects too few students to inspire much action. Imagine what would happen if voucher enrollment grew to match D.C. charter school enrollment — 35,019, or 42 percent of all publicly funded students.
A voucher program that size would cost about $450 million a year in tax dollars. At that price, the current lack of accreditation and accountability would no longer be tolerated. Private schools would have to accept severe regulation if they wanted voucher funds. Goodbye to their flexibility and autonomy. The voucher movement would die from its own success.
The temptations of voucher cash are great. The D.C. program pays $8,000 a year for every elementary school student and $12,000 for each high-schooler. Rent an old house or storefront, lure parents with promises of a free private school education and the money rolls in. Teachers don’t need credentials, just four-year college degrees. Schools don’t have to publish their test results or answer questions from pesky reporters.
The better alternatives for those of us who want more parent choice are innovative regular public schools and independent charter schools. They are regulated, accredited and accountable. They have to report their test scores. They can be closed if they don’t work.
Vouchers sound good to the relatively few families who get them, but they will never be able to help more than a tiny fraction of the students who need better schools.
Read the whole article at the Link. And read more from Jay at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/class-struggle