If there was ever any doubt that the Republican-led Missouri General Assembly is marching headlong toward taxpayer financing of education, including vouchers, it comes from the very words used by the people in charge.
Take for instance the special committee appointed over the summer by Speaker of the House Rod Jetton to examine education issues. It wasn't called the Special Committee on Educational Problems or the Special Committee on the Crisis in Education; it was the Special Committee on School Choice.
Ironically, many of the legislators who support educational vouchers are anti-abortion, yet they use the same language to push their idea. With abortion, it's not pro-abortion, it's pro-choice, a phrase designed to make the idea more palatable. Educational vouchers also seem much more palatable if you call them school choice.
Today's Springfield News-Leader features an article by Cory DeVera on Springfield Superintendent Norm Ridder's opposition to what has been termed "tax credits" for scholarships for students in St. Louis and Kansas City. A voucher by any other name is still a voucher.
The proponents on these thinly-disguised voucher proposals use other key words, like "competition." What they aren't doing is anything that remotely addresses the problems in education.
Private schools are not equipped to handle the types of students who attend classes in Missouri public schools every day, ranging from the educable mentally handicapped to the kinds of delinquents who make teachers steer clear of inner-city schools. My guess is that even if a voucher system were to be put in place, the private schools would still never see any of those students. They will get the students they want, brag about their high test scores and live high on the hog at the taxpayers' expense. This has nothing to do with competition; it's a welfare program for the elite.
If our legislature truly wanted to address the problems in education, it might look at addressing the societal problems that have children in homes where things take place that most of us do not want to think about. Many of the problems come from broken homes, homes where the parents are abusing drugs and alcohol, or where the children are physically or sexually abused. Please tell me how private schools will be equipped to handle the kinds of problems that public school officials (and not just in the inner cities) have to deal with daily.
And now federal and state programs that once offered funding to deal with some of these problems, such as the financing which once paid for an alternative school for troubled students in the Joplin R-8 School District, have been slashed to the bone or no longer exist.
Our legislators are pushing a bill to keep students in school to age 18. On the face of it, it sounds like a wonderful idea, but many of these same students who would be affected are the ones who create disturbances in classrooms and have little regard for anyone but themselves. Keeping them in school is a laudable goal, but while these children are crying out for an alternative-type school environment, we are instead forced to put them back in situations where they most likely will not succeed- and will do their level best to keep others from succeeding.
When and if educational vouchers are approved by our legislature, you are not going to see these troublemakers in private schools. They're not the kinds of students private schools will ever accept.
Vouchers are a flawed and dangerous public policy.