Magazine article The Christian Century


Magazine article The Christian Century


Article excerpt

School vouchers

IF SCHOOL vouchers were to become the national remedy for the problems of public education--sanctioned by the Supreme Court and favored by one of the national political parties--I see only disaster for the public schools here in New Mexico. (See "Making schools work for the rich and the poor," by Ronald J. Sider, Aug. 25-Sept. 1.) They are badly underfunded, with no immediate remedies in sight. Vouchers would, in the words of the prophet, "heal our wounds too lightly." They would create more problems than they would solve.

I thought it ironic that Ron Sider's article appeared in the same issue that reported the efforts of the Kansas Board of Education to curb the teaching of evolution in public schools. No one, of course, will forbid the teaching of creationism in private and parochial schools. Could it be that stone poor kid in the inner city gets to go to a parochial school by means of vouchers and is taught creationism instead of evolution? I don't want my tax dollars used to shortchange that child.

John C. Purdy Santa Fe, N.M.

School choice eventually gives the choice to the schools, not the parents or the children. Urban private schools succeed because they can be selective. Urban public schools cannot be. They are the last resort for kids with social as well as physical or mental disabilities. Sufficient numbers start out behind in basic skills and come from a culture in which people are not rewarded by school. This puts them behind the "good schools," which are usually schools with a lot of educated middle-class kids who start with and continue to get advantages at home. (Public school teachers send their children to other schools because they demand and expect educated middle-class classmates for their children.) While it may be the right of all Americans who can afford it to run away from the schools of poor children, allowing the rich and the poor alike to be "creamed" by school vouchers is a little like allowing them both to sleep under bridges.

The question that choice and vouchers do not answer is, "How do we educate the children of the urban poor?" If private schools can do it, then public ones can too. Dismantling urban school systems and replacing them with independent and underresourced schools may cost taxpayers less, but it won't solve the problem. …

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