Patterico's Pontifications

2/7/2011

A Parent Shares Her Experience With Vouchers

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 10:27 am



[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

From 2004 to 2008, Washington, D.C. had a vibrant voucher system before Democrats ended enrollment in it.  One parent, Vivian Butler, shares her story.  The whole thing is worth reading, but here’s a highlight:

I’m so glad I didn’t give up, because slowly but surely Jerlisa’s grades and education advanced. That made everything worthwhile. As ninth grade ended, I just couldn’t believe how much she had learned and grown. I said to myself: “By George, I think she’s got it now!”

Jerlisa isn’t the only one who has benefited from this experience. I, too, started to feel more confident. Now I ask about resources and fill out scholarship applications with ease. I found a way to buy new uniforms for my daughter. Instead of washing uniforms every afternoon, I use the time to help my daughter with her homework.

And seeing Jerlisa’s growth over the past six years has inspired me to take some hard steps in my own life. I’m now applying to programs to become a home health-care nurse. Meanwhile, Jerlisa is deciding where to apply for college.

These are things we never dreamed were possible before. I am extremely proud of my daughter, and she is proud of me. Jerlisa’s scholarship has been worth so much more than $7,500.

And before you (logically) cry “anecdotal evidence,” Cato @ Liberty points out that her experience is hardly unique:

The latest federal study of the D.C. voucher program finds that voucher students have pulled significantly ahead of their public school peers in reading and perform at least as well as public school students in math. It also reports that the average tuition at the voucher schools is $6,620. That is ONE QUARTER what the District of Columbia spends per pupil on education ($26,555), according to the District’s own fiscal year 2009 budget.

Better results at a quarter the cost. And Democrats in Congress have sunset its funding and are trying to kill it. Shame on them.

And of course, no post on the state of our schools would be complete without this picture:

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

25 Responses to “A Parent Shares Her Experience With Vouchers”

  1. Many years ago, I was watching “Free to Choose”, Milton Friedman’s panel discussion on PBS. This show was on school vouchers. On it was the late Albert Shanker,head of the United Federation of Teachers, the teachers union in NYC. He – of course – was against vouchers. One of the reasons he gave was, if they allowed vouchers, the overwhelming majority of parents would pull their children out of the public schools. In short, we should deny vouchers because given the opportunity most parents would leave the public school system. It’s not what I would call a ringing endorsement.

    Mike Giles (e660fb)

  2. Possible reason that the voucher kids are doing better: they’re the ones with parents who give a fig.

    Vouchers don’t make education better across the board somehow, vouchers give parents who are TRYING to do things for their kids a tool to do so.

    That it saves money is just a bonus. ^.^

    Foxfier (24dddb)

  3. fox

    i think that is a reasonable hypothesis, although this story also suggests that parents who are empowered by this process also themselves become better at helping their children.

    Aaron Worthing (b1db52)

  4. Foxfier and AW, you are both correct, I think.

    There is the philosophical side: does a faraway government group know what is best for your child’s education? One size does not fit all, and that is what school districts are all about.

    Then the sad truth: many parents aren’t involved. Though it is true that most school districts want parents to leave education to “the experts.” Gulp.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  5. The ‘only a parent who cares will go to the effort of using vouchers and therefore any kid using a voucher has a parent who cares’ is a big part of the effect.

    Another big part of the effect is that private schools can deny troublemaker kids (of various definitions). They can kick them out. It’s much much harder for a public school to kick out a troublemaker kid. The troublemakers, of course, make for a troubled environment for the others.

    luagha (5cbe06)

  6. I read somewhere that unionized public school teachers are more likely than the population as a whole to send their kids to private schools. Can anyone back this up?

    Mitch (e40959)

  7. At least in Chicago, 40% of the public teachers reject public schools for their own kids.

    and who can blame them? Well… I guess everybody can, actually.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  8. luagha: Some of those kids causing trouble are bright energy-filled boys and girls eager to learn, but who begin acting out due to the boredom caused by the dumbed-down curricula of many public schools.

    Old Coot (a0cebb)

  9. #8 – no thread on the subject would be complete without this Pollyannaish meme offered. And who, pray tell, is this “dumbed-down curricula” designed for?

    Just once, is there anybody out there who is anti-voucher who will admit that troublemakers are mostly $hitbirds who will get away with as much meanness, bullying, violence, indolence and disrespectful behavior as possible? They actually ENJOY keeping the teacher frustrated and other kids from learning.

    TimesDisliker (39fbcb)

  10. #8 Old Coot – Concur, it was for that very reason I pulled both my boys out of Public School.

    thomas (ad76be)

  11. I remember when president Reagan’s education secretary William J. Bennett talked about a Catholic school in New York that only accepted students who had failed in the public school system. The school was privately sponsored and while the students did no better than the public school system, these were students who had failed in the public school system.

    This is baloney about parental involvement. While parental involvement can definitely make things better my experience has been that the public school system only wants parental involvement on their terms. When I tried to opt out my seventh grade daughter from the “Health” class because it was teaching that homosexuality and heterosexuality were equal. The principal told me “we know better than you, because we’re trained”. This made me extremely angry. They acted as if I was stupid. While not the best speller, I do have 172 IQ. At the time I was very interested in my daughter’s training. I taught my children to read. When the public school failed my older son by teaching him whole language instead of phonics, he could only read words that he knew. It took two weeks, just 10 minutes a night to teach him phonics. After that he was able to read on his own. If he didn’t know a word, he could sound it out.

    After the citizens of California passed a proposition that required the California schools to abandon whole language and teach phonics, the Los Angeles Unified School District refused to teach phonics. You see, they knew better. I believe they were finally sued by a parents organization to teach phonics.

    When California passed proposition that required schools to stop the practice of social promotion, LAUSD refused to stop the practice. They said out of the over 900,000 students they would have to keep that over 300,000 students back and that they didn’t have enough teachers to keep back the students. If I would have been ashamed of having such a large number of students to keep back. However, I don’t believe they have shame.

    When my two boys entered the third and seventh grades, I put them into a small private school attached to a Lutheran church. While it was a hardship for me I believe it was one of the best things I could do for my children. Because of the extra cost of private school I did without a new car and many luxury items, but it was worth it.

    While I am sure there are many fine public schools in some communities, in other communities like Washington DC or Los Angeles which I believe has a drop out rate of 55%, the public school system needs the competition that vouchers allow parents when they are able to put their children in private schools. I believe competition makes a better product when there is no monopoly. I also believe that when the public school system fails, private tuition should be tax-deductible.

    Please forgive me for any use of the wrong word in a sentence. Because of a shoulder injury I am using a speech to text program to type and it doesn’t always use the word I meant to use. I just haven’t got used to it yet. I believe it would’ve taken being less time to type this screed then to speak it, but then it would have been very painful.

    Tanny O'Haley (12193c)

  12. It seems that this speech to text program misses the word “a” a lot. With that in mind, when reading the above comment please place the word “a” where appropriate.

    Thank you so much.

    Tanny O'Haley (12193c)

  13. While parental involvement can definitely make things better my experience has been that the public school system only wants parental involvement on their terms.

    Part of why they’re cruddy, Tanny.

    TimesDisliker –
    The lowest common denominator. Schools have to teach into the reach of the dumbest kid in the class, the kid that should have been held back a grade.
    I wasn’t especially disruptive, but I did usually have my nose in a book and God help the teacher if I took an interest and they didn’t have their ducks in a row. One guy was teaching straight out of a book, and read off that series of numbers are a lot easier to remember than series of letters– I raised my hand and suggested that might be because there are a lot fewer numbers than letters. Totally destroyed his credibility, and I was honestly just trying to be helpful.

    Realistically, big schools shouldn’t have grades after the basics (not ABC, I mean fifth, seventh, etc)– figure out where folks are in X subject, and sort them that way. It’s not like our social groups are sorted by age anywhere else after school. Boom! No social promotion problem.
    Won’t happen, but we can dream…..

    Foxfier (24dddb)

  14. To Old Coot and TimesDisliker – there are many different kinds of troublemakers. Some have solvable problems, some do not.

    luagha (5cbe06)

  15. At my graduation ceremony in 1994, when they announced that the Education School Grads would receive thier diplomas next, they all jumped up and cheered. They also unfurled a large banner which said, “Teachers – America’s Future!”

    It was upside down.

    My Father video-taped the cermenoy, I should look and see if he caught this.

    Hank Archer (44fa64)

  16. Hey, Newspaper Reporter, who was it that ended the vouchers anyway?

    Just askin’.

    Patricia (3aa1fd)

  17. luagha: No argument with #14.

    Old Coot (a0cebb)

  18. Interestingly, last week the Los Angeles Archdiocese announced the parochial schools would increase their school year by 20 days. Ironically most California public school districts are decreasing their school year via furlough days as a necessary cost cutting measure – from 5 – 15 days depending on the district.

    Dana (8ba2fb)

  19. Greetings:

    Someday, somewhere, I’d like to read an article entitled “Catholic Educators: How Do They Do It?” that includes reference to the Catholic “reverse-voucher” in which parents, who are already taxed to support the public schools, pay for their Catholic education out of their own pockets.

    I find it harder and harder to give any shrift to articles concerning education that fail to mention the Catholic parochial school system.

    11B40 (490221)

  20. #2 Foxfier: One could test your hypothesis by comparing the performance of students who get vouchers and go to private school with the performance of students who applied for vouchers, but didn’t get them and remained in public school.

    Joshua (36e2ec)


  21. The ‘only a parent who cares will go to the effort of using vouchers and therefore any kid using a voucher has a parent who cares’ is a big part of the effect.

    Another big part of the effect is that private schools can deny troublemaker kids (of various definitions). They can kick them out. It’s much much harder for a public school to kick out a troublemaker kid. The troublemakers, of course, make for a troubled environment for the others.


    I hear this BS excuse all the freakin’ time. It’s the exact same BS argument that the post office uses to maintain control over the mails — “oh, Fedex and UPS get to pick and choose their deliveries… if you forced them to take all deliveries, they’d never do it…”

    Really? Really? FINE — make that a part of the whole system — have a tiered system for dealing with problem kids, and having more funding for those kids available to encourage private schools that WANT the “problem” kids, as long as they demonstrate progress on the whole.

    I worked for a small private school that dealt with “problem” cases. Usually, it was just a matter of a lack of discipline on the part of the parents in making the kids do their homework properly. Once the kids got behind, it kept getting worse and worse. The private school enforced study discipline directly with the kids and indirectly with the parents. Their success rate was exceptionally high.

    It’s called the Free Market way.

    IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society (c9dcd8)

  22. I don’t think you get it. You are using the wrong measure.

    Government schools are not intended to prepare students for productive adulthood. They are intended to ensure that students vote as they are told.

    Amphipolis (b120ce)

  23. Not to be off topic, but the post office maintains control over the mails because it’s in the constitution.

    I completely agree that a good private school can fix many fixable problems.

    luagha (6b56b9)


  24. Not to be off topic, but the post office maintains control over the mails because it’s in the constitution.

    1) I see nothing in the language of the Constitution which EXCLUDES alternative means from serving the same function. This, however, IS the claim of the USPS, and so far has been the interpretation of the law, vigorously defended by the USPS and its supporters. They tried to shut down Fed-Ex, but failed, thankfully.

    2) Even if you can/could argue that as being solely theirs to perform, are you going to suggest that the USPS would not fight tooth and nail any effort to change the Constitution to relax that requirement? Allow me to pre-empt that with a “ROTFLMAO” beforehand.

    IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society (c9dcd8)


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