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Edu 555 School Vouchers and the Law

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The Law and School Vouchers
July 24, 2013
Grand Canyon University: EDA 555

The Law and School Vouchers

School choice is a very controversial topic and aggressively disputed today. There are various types of choices which provide many educational opportunities. Can parents afford it? School vouchers are only one choice in this divisive topic. No matter which side of the issue regarding vouchers you agree with, people are very passionate about it. Texas has been trying for years to pass it in Congress; however, it has not passed. There are many pros and cons regarding this topic.

First of all, there are many choices for parents today to provide educational opportunities for their children according Chen (2011). There are the public schools. These are schools which require no tuition and the students are zoned to that particular school in their district. Charter schools are another option. They are free, public schools established independently. They are not subject to the same state and federal requirements, but they are held to a high accountability. Parents can request this option. Magnet schools are also free, public schools. They have a specific focus such as science or art. In order to qualify to attend this school, the student may have to take a test and have satisfactory behavior. Another type of school is the virtual school. This is distance learning and learning at your own pace. It has strict government and district guidelines. Then we have private schools which can be religious or secular. They do require tuition in order to attend. Home schools are schools where the parents are the teachers. The students received personalized instruction at their own pace and learning style. There are state rules to follow. Voucher programs enable parents to choose the type of school that they want their children to attend. This typically means a private school. The parents receive the amount of funding which is based on what schools typically receive for each student.

There are a variety of school choice programs for funding according to the Friedman Foundation (2013). An education savings account is one of them. The parents receive a deposit of public funds which goes into a government-authorized savings plan. This account has restrictions. It can cover private school tuition, online programs, private tutoring and may be used for community college. Another funding option is the tax credit scholarships. Parents receive these through tax credits when they donate to nonprofits that provide private school scholarships. It can also include grants to public schools or transportation assistance. Individual tax credits or deductions are another one. Parents receive a state income tax relief for approved educational expenses. This includes private school tuition, books, supplies, computers, and tutors. Finally, we have the vouchers. These funds are given to parents to give them a choice of where they want their children educated. Usually, this infers public schools versus private schools. They may use part or all of the funding. The parents have a choice of a secular private school or a religious private school.

Voucher programs are hotly debated in throughout the states. There are pros and cons for this type of program and there are a variety of vouchers. One disadvantage according to some critics of vouchers is that they do not create choice for parents, but they create choice for private schools at taxpayers’ cost according to the Texas Freedom Network (2004-2013). According to Messerli, (2012) many people are against vouchers because they say it is against the first amendment because most of the money from tax dollars goes to religious schools. They believe that religious schools teach opinion and centuries old teaching rather than by teaching scientific proof. Some feel that it could lead to government funding of specific religious institutions. Another con for vouchers is that it takes funds away from under-funded public schools and makes them worse. There would be a reduction in personnel and programs. It, in turn, can lower the quality of private schools. However, some feel that private schools would receive the best students and take them away from the public schools. Private schools can show favoritism. They do not have to admit everyone. They can establish any criteria they want for selecting or rejecting students. Therefore, it would make it more difficult for poor students to be accepted into private schools. Private schools are not subject to oversight like public schools. They do not have to meet the same standards as public schools and are held unaccountable to taxpayers. If private schools were held accountable for taking state tests or for standards, private schools would refuse vouchers. According to the Texas Freedom Network (2004-2013), new schools would open only to make a profit. There is not credible evidence that vouchers would improve educational accomplishments. Vouchers would enable citizens to ignore our responsibility to provide an excellent education for every child.

The advantages of vouchers are just as numerous. According to Chen (2011), it empowers parents to make choices for their child’s needs and interests effectively. Parents would make the choice of which school their children would attend whether it is religious or non-religious. It gives choices to the poor to send their children to better schools for their education. Having vouchers would create competition and would increase all schools success. Presently, private schools teach values and they are successful. They are able to use various teaching methods which the public schools may not be able to use. There is an opportunity for schools to be specialized like magnet schools and it would increase diversity within the schools. In addition, parents would not have to pay twice for their children to go to private schools. It will help with less wastefulness in the bureaucracies of education. Since the public education system is having difficulties and is not successful, vouchers would give parents a choice between schools.

As you can see, there are many different opinions regarding vouchers. Are vouchers successful for students? According to Chen (2011), there are three voucher systems that are solidly in place. They are in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington D.C. In Washington D.C., vouchers have increased graduation rates for their students. In Milwaukee, there is a higher level of satisfaction for parents. Then, in Cleveland, there are conflicting results for their voucher program. Although vouchers seem to work for some areas, it did not show results in other areas. Until more voucher programs are in place, we will not have any hard evidence that it works well.

There are several court cases involving vouchers in several states. The first case was Zelman V. Simmons-Harris. Cleveland’s pubic schools were failing so they solved the problem by offering vouchers to low-income parents. The lawsuit claimed that the voucher program unconstitutionally financed religious schools. The court decided that the program did not violate the Establishment Clause. It provided no incentives for religious private schools, secular private schools or public schools. Another case was in Florida. They had the voucher program called Opportunity Scholarships Program. The court decided that it violated the state constitution since it was not a high quality system of free public schools. Then in 2010-2011, Arizona had a court case against its income tax credits. The Ninth Circuit stated that it violated the Establishment Clause because it provided scholarships for students to attend religious schools. It was appealed in 2011. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Arizona voucher system. Since the scholarship gave a credit to the parents, the law only allows taxpayers to decide what to do with their own tax dollars unless it shows individual harm. In 2013, Louisiana had a lawsuit against their voucher system. The judge ruled that the voucher system was constitutional; however, the funding of it was not. It is presently going to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The most recent court case happened in Indiana. The Indiana Supreme Court stated that the state’s voucher program is constitutional. This was a major case since their voucher program included middle class families, as well as, lower-economic families. Some of the cases were ruled constitutional and others were not. The laws and how the voucher system is funded and distributed have affected these cases for the various states.

Texas does not have a voucher system. Congress has tried to implement vouchers into law but have been unsuccessful. If Texas would create a voucher system, my school would have some difficulties. We do not have a high performance on our state test. Likewise, we are not a magnet school or have any special programs. We would probably lose some staff and some funding. This would hamper our interventions for our students. We would still do the best that we can without the funding. It may not create a successful school, but we do not have one now.

There are many choices for parent today. They have opportunities to provide these choices for their children. However, funding is an issue for most. Since parents already pay into the public school system, they do not have a choice unless there are vouchers or credits. Since these are their children and we serve them to become academically successful, parent should have a choice in their child’s education. Many times the courts have ruled in favor of the parental choice.

References

Chen, G. (2011, October). The Ongoing Debate Over School Choice. Public School Review. Retrieved from http://www.publicschoolreview.com/articles/371
Coulson, A., (2010). Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn. Cato Institute. Washington DC.
Dillon, S. (2006). Florida Supreme Court Blocks School vouchers. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/06/national/06florida.html?_r=0

Dreilinger, D. (2013, March). School Voucher Case Moves to Louisiana Supreme Court. The Times-Picayune. New Orleans, LA. Retrieved from http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2013/01/new_bese_president_advocates_v.html
First Amendment Center. Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. Retrieved from http://www.firstamendmentschools.org/freedoms/case.aspx?id=659
Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. (2013 ed.). The ABCs of School Choice: The Comprehensive Guide to Every Private School Choice Program in America. Retrieved from Edchoice.org.
Messerli, J. (2012, January). Should Government Vouchers Be Given to Pay for Private Schools, Even if They’re Religious Schools? Retrieved from http://www.balancedpolitics.org/school_vouchers.htm
National Public Radio. (2013, March). State Supreme Court Upholds Indiana’s School Vouchers. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2013/0/28/175550941/supreme-court-upholds-indianas-school-vouchers
Ross, L. (2011). Supreme Court Upholds Arizona School Vouchers. FoxNews. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/04/04/supreme-court-upholds-arizona-school-vouchers/
Texas Freedom Network. (2004-2013). Strengthening Public Schools. Retrieved from http://www.tfn.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issues_public_schools_vouchers…...

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