To the Editor:
I agree with Doug Tuthill’s sentiments in his Commentary “Rethinking the Notion of Public vs. Private” (Jan. 21, 2009). Why do we care where a child is educated so long as that child is getting a good education in a civic-minded environment chosen by his or her parents? If a school meets these three criteria, then it is good for our country and worthy of public funds.
I first heard of vouchers in 1999 in Milwaukee, where I was an intern for the Institute for the Transformation of Learning and worked with Howard Fuller, its founder and a former Milwaukee superintendent. At that time, I was surprised to find some resistance in progressive circles to what the institute was trying to do: provide economically disadvantaged families the same options families of greater means already have.
Expanded parental choice surely allows some children to escape a struggling school and move to a more successful one. I accept that certain schools may not prove to be up to par and thus not worthy of public vouchers, and that more research needs to be done to evaluate the impact of school choice via vouchers on student performance. These issues, however, do not undermine the fact that there still is great potential for immediate improvements in education for many students through responsible use of vouchers.
For the record, I also support directing more resources toward public school education to raise teacher salaries, improve teacher training and support, and increase public school funding per student for other necessities. I find these goals to be perfectly compatible with my support of vouchers. We can both expand the portion of the pie we spend on education and offer impoverished families more high-quality schools options to choose from.
A version of this article appeared in the February 04, 2009 edition of Education Week as If the Schooling Is Good, Do We Care Where It Is?