There has been a considerable amount of discussion recently concerning school choice and the expansion of the voucher program. The current voucher amount is $8400 for K-8 and $9045 for High School. There are currently income limits which may change with fuutre legislation.
Opponents of school choice argue that there should not be two systems for publically funded education because it would take resources from the public school system and could result in a lower quality educational experience. Basically what they are saying is you, the parents, have no choice and the product that is presented is what you will have to accept. The analogy comes to mind of Henry Ford who began to mass produce automobiles at the beginning of the 20th century. When asked by his customers if they could have a choice of colors, he stated, you can have any color as long as it is black. I sense the same attitude to the customer from the public school system.
Another argument opponents put forth is that the taxpayer would be paying for two systems instead of one. While it is true that $8400 and $9045 per student would be spent in the private school system, the cost for a student in the public school system averages $15,300 per child. The revenue for this comes from state and federal aids and the local property taxes. My math says that you would save $6900 per student in the voucher program. Put another way, if there were no private school system, what would be the cost to you as a taxpayer?
There are at least 15 school district superintendents from our area stating that the cuts would potentially result in reduction of programs and a resulting reduction in teachers. Not one of them suggested looking at reducing administrative costs. Did you know that Wisconsin has 424 school districts? Other states establish school districts by county or have significantly less school districts and their corresponding expensive administrative costs. Administrators should be responsible for overall budgets, curriculum and standardizing policy and procedures. The day-to-day operations are handled by the principal and the teachers. The money saved by consolidating districts could be used to maintain programs and assure that teachers receive the compensation they deserve for educating our youth. Merit increases could also be given to retain our best and brightest teachers.
In the private sector, executives would be forced to address administrative overhead costs because the customer demands a quality product at a fair price. School Choice, by giving more options to the parent, does introduce competition in the educational arena. Using the auto industry as an example again, do you think General Motors would have changed their attitude in the early ’70s that the American Public should be happy with a low-quality low fuel-efficient car if the Japanese were not competing with a better product?
I think the Department of Instruction should take this opportunity to reevaluate how they are delivering education to the ultimate customers, the parents. Parents need to ask these questions of their school administrators and school boards. I think we need to “do it for the kids” to insure they receive the best education possible at the optimal cost to the taxpayer.