Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Voucher Debate

I spend so much time reading about education, vouchers, test scores, charter schools, blah, blah, blah--that I sometimes do not realize that other people don't. In fact, we need publications that will take on this issue with a more general population. In its current issue, Brain,Child, the magazine for thinking mothers, takes on the voucher debate. My friend Katie Allison Granju offers a personal yet comprehensive essay about why she supports school choice.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to say up front that my three children--a fifth-grader, a second-grader, and a preschooler--all attend private schools. In other words, not only do I believe in school choice, I have exercised it on behalf of my own kids. Additionally, of course, I continue to pay taxes to support our generally mediocre and monolithic local public school system. In essence, I pay tuition twice for the privilege of opting out of sending my children to schools I do not believe would offer them the education I want them to have.

My three kids' schooling needs are as individual as they are, and as their parent, I am best able to evaluate the right school, teacher, and educational method for each of them. For example, two of my kids do best in a Montessori classroom, while another needs extra support with math. I have never been able to understand the logic behind matching a particular child to a particular classroom based almost entirely on that child's street address.

Interestingly, annual tuition at the private Montessori school attended by two of my children amounts to less than the per-pupil amount spent each year in our local public schools. This is not an isolated statistic; many private and public charter schools across the country offer parents demonstrably higher achievement, smaller class sizes, and specialized courses of study for fewer dollars per student per year than the demographically-matched public schools in the same district.

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