It’s working. Public school advocates beat back the voucher movement for years. Parents recognized siphoning money off to private schools would endanger public schools — including the many good ones. They recognized that vouchers would be ripe for exploitation by get-rich-quick charlatans and that religion would often substitute for sound education.
So vouchers took a back seat to other embellishments of that wonderful euphemism for public school destruction — “choice.” Charter schools have been the chief vehicle. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared we live in a post-racial America, the door is open to ignoring resegregation of public schools. Charter schools segregate by race, class and social structure, Diane Ravitch has written repeatedly. The segregation comes at the wishes of both black and white parents, it’s only fair to note.
If parents are hungering to take public dollars, no matter the damage to a good public school district, to set up their own publicly funded quasi-private school — such as the proposed middle school for a privileged white neighborhood in western Little Rock — what really is the difference in letting any parent claim a share of the public school bank account and take it off to a private school?
The Billionaire Boys Club gets it.
Thus you have the richest of the billionaires, Arkansas’s Walton family, now stepping up its spending on voucher programs.
A friend calls my attention to an Education Week report on the Walton Foundation’s recent announcement of a $6 million grant aimed at doubling the number of children attending private schools with public money by 2017. The Waltons say they are just responding to parent demand.
Parent demand is important. But we also know that demand sometime can be a bad thing: A demand not to teach evolution; to discriminate against certain religions; to bar attendance to certain sorts of students. That’s fine when a school is truly private. When it’s taking public dollars, not so much. See Louisiana, a leader in vouchers, where things went wrong quickly.
In the Waltons’ utopia, we’d have no conventional public school districts at all. No messy democratic school boards. No teachers unions. No universal standards. And virtually no demand for increasing property taxes to pay for this balkianized system of have- and have-not schools that would replace our historic school structure. Which some think is the point.