I'm wearing the sticker that says, "I Voted." I hope everyone else gets their sticker, too. Now you'll have to forgive me. I try to only put non-important things on, but I have to weigh in on
Referendum 1. I voted against school vouchers and I want to inform everyone why.
There are a lot of people who say that public schools will be better if they have more competition, like businesses do. Public schools cannot act as businesses because they are government entities, not corporations. They are not in it to make money. If public schools are to compete with private they need to be given more freedom to enforce accountability. One example of this is social progression. Students cannot be held back if they do not meet basic grade level requirements because it will hurt their self-esteem. Students who choose not to learn fall into this category. Public schools are also not allowed to have a say in which students (or how many) will attend their school. That's why they are public schools. The only way a school can regulate which students can or cannot attend is if a student does something that merits expulsion.
I believe vouchers will cause more problems than they solve. Proponents of the referendum say that public schools will not lose the money for students who move to other schools. That's true. For five years. Teachers are employed according to the number of students enrolled in the school. In five years the school districts will not be able to afford to pay teachers if the enrollment drops. The school I worked at last year lost a teacher because enrollment was dropping. Class sizes will stay the same as they are, not go down. Teachers will also be required to teach more subjects, decreasing planning time for each subject. This is already happening at the last school I was at. Some teachers are teaching five different subjects in their field because the classes need to be offered, but the schools can't hire enough teachers to cover them all.
The voucher plan is too universal. It needs to be limited to those students will special needs or talents. Students with learning difficulties like dyslexia or hearing and speech problems should be allowed extra help to go to a school where they can receive more individualized attention. The same is true for gifted students or those with special talents like music or art. If the bill were limited to these students we would be able to offer their families more monetary help to be in schools that would serve their needs. The excuse, "the teachers at that school don't like me" is not reason enough to change schools. From my experience, if the student believes that at one school, they believe it at any school they go to. I had students I didn't like, but most of them got good grades in my classes because they did their work. Those who got bad grades earned it from the worked they turned in. Or neglected to turn in. The same was true of the students I liked.
To keep from running on too long, I'll put in one final argument. Voucher proponents say that parents should have the choice of what is best for their child. Absolutely. A student can attend any school in the district free of charge, as well as go to a charter school. That is choice. What they don't mention is that parents need to choose to take part in their child's education. Children's success in school, in general, is determined more by parental involvement than it is by their school. Charter schools address this problem by requiring parents to donate time at the school. Were most public schools allowed to do this, we would see a vast improvement in the quality of both student work and student involvement in school. Bottom line: Schools are better if parents become involved. But you can't legislate that.