Are vouchers the answer to bad schools?

02/23/2014 12:00 AM

02/21/2014 7:08 PM

Many Republican candidates for state offices favor private school vouchers as a way out for students whose parents feel they are trapped in failing public schools. Many Democrats oppose pulling voucher money out of the school funding system and say the answer is to let students transfer to other public schools in their home districts. Which do you believe is the right approach — or do you favor a different plan?

If Texas Republicans are for school vouchers, it’s a safe bet that they’re a terrible idea.

— Bob Goode, Fort Worth

If parents move children based on a voucher program, does that mean students who remain in the failing school will be OK? If you have a school full of under-achieving students, who eventually pays for that? It all comes back home to the taxpayer.

If Republicans and Democrats really were concerned about all our children, they would fund a standing committee to study why schools fail. I don’t have the statistic, but I will go out on a limb and state that the majority of failing schools are not in affluent neighborhoods.

The easy fix is to identify those neighborhoods where history tells us the children in those areas start behind and stay behind. I would rather, as a taxpayer, pay money on the front end of the problem vs. housing criminals on the back end.

— Willie R. Hargis, Forest Hill

Vouchers to private schools would be a huge mistake. Once the private schools start accepting government money for the tuition of children from failing public schools, the government would have the power to assert some control over the private schools. Some bastions of independence must be preserved, especially in education.

Vouchers for transferring to better public schools would improve the public schools by making them competitive with each other.

— Marcelle Houston Borgers,

Fort Worth

I am adamantly opposed to using private school vouchers to allow parents to transfer their children out of public schools. This would destroy the public school system in Texas.

If parents want their children to go to a private school, then they can just pay the tuition and fees. We need to put this money and other money into improving the public school system in Texas.

There have been examples of private schools and charter schools in Texas failing and not offering a quality education. In addition, these types of schools are often subject to undue influence from wealthy and famous donors and founders.

One recent example of this is a new private school in Fort Worth whose main founder/benefactor at the beginning was a very famous person and is now the subject of increasing controversies.

— Walter H. Delashmit, Justin

Some public schools provide quality education: other public schools do not.

The drop-out rate in some public schools is 35 percent to 45 percent. Many graduates of some public schools are functionally illiterate and must attend special college classes to learn what they should have learned in public schools.

The average yearly cost of public school education is over $11,000 per student, per year. Many private schools provide quality educations for 25 percent less. Private schools could reduce the cost of education and save taxpayer money.

Affluent parents have the opportunity to transfer their children from low-quality public schools to higher-quality private schools; poor and minority parents do not. This is “unequal education opportunity.”

A national school voucher program would provide “equal education opportunity,” but the Democratic Party opposes vouchers. Democrats must oppose vouchers or lose the support of teachers’ unions.

— Gil Cain, Joshua

If Texas public schools, constitutionally created to be free, efficient and equal for all children are essential to democracy, it follows that failures within our schools are our responsibility as parents and as citizens through the legislators we elect.

In 2013, in a lesson toward redemption, a majority of Texas House Republicans sensed their constituents’ contempt for votes they cast in 2011 to cut $5.4 billion in school funding.

These same Republicans overwhelmingly joined Democrats in a 103-43 vote to prohibit funding for vouchers in the House budget bill that was accompanied by a paltry restoration of less than half of the cuts.

Our democracy will be less served by cut-and-run voucher schemes that, at taxpayer expense, return us to a separate but equal education doctrine and put for-profit and sectarian voucher proponents ahead of adequately and equitably educating all Texas school children in preservation of a homogeneous society.

— Mike McLamore, Fort Worth

The All Points subject, “Getting out of failing schools,” and what is a viable solution should raise eyebrows of concern of anyone with a school-age child.

Transferring pupils to other school districts is not a panacea, just a bandage fix. Remember, teachers have a lot of influence on school kids, but parents should be responsible too. They hardly attend PTA meetings any more, where problems could be addressed and solved.

Smaller classrooms where pupils can get individual attention with problems would be an option, regardless if they transfer to another district or not; the focus is on the school child, period!

Private schools are successful because they attract better-qualified teachers, and aren’t overwhelmed with a surplus of children in the classrooms.

— Cynthia Sseketto, Fort Worth

School vouchers or other “choice” programs that divert public funds into private schools are nothing more than an insidious way to pay for private schools for those Texans who want their children out of the general population of public schools and into the elitist private school environment.

Instead of trying to escape “failing public schools,” why don’t our legislators (many of whose children already attend private schools) take a good hard look at the issues causing public schools to fail and use their resources to address those issues?

— Susanne Warren, Fort Worth

If private schools can educate our children with vouchers better than the public schools, then great, let’s do it.

Just make the following requirements: No promoting religion, creationism etc. with our tax dollars. The schools must be open to students and employees without regard to race, sex or sexual orientation.

I just wonder if they will still want private schools with those restrictions.

— Tom Glenn, Fort Worth

Texas legislators over the last 20 years have “messed with Texas” public school funding, and there lies most of the problem. The Robin Hood Plan and the state lottery-funded programs have been an absolute fiasco.

So, I say “Yes” to the parents of this state on the subject of obtaining private school vouchers, because the public schools in Texas will not be right for a very long time.

I feel the proper way to repair the funding for public schools is to have a state sales tax that goes directly to the public schools of Texas.

Texas teachers need to be heard in a comprehensive study to determine what is needed to educate, formulate and execute a plan.

— Gary L Horton, Keller

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