“Education is the civil rights issue of this century.”–John McCain
In his acceptance speech on Thursday night, Senator McCain clearly showed that he is committed to reform in Washington. His proposals spoke to all Americans and gave them a clear idea of what he will do as President. What was most important to me were the three paragraphs on education.
Two of my three kids are in school. They attend a private school where we pay the tuition monthly. On top of the tuition we also participate in mandatory fund raising activities. And like all taxpayers, we pay school taxes to our local public school district, money we never benefit from. All of this is our choice and, while a struggle at times, is worth every penny. The education they receive is outstanding and their teachers are some of the best in the area.
John McCain has proposed offering this education to all students in all types of schools through the voucher system. Public schools are failing across the country. The growth of charter and cyber schools are a testament to that fact. There are many good public schools as well but these are often separated from students who need them by residency requirements or transportation concerns. Through the implementation of a voucher system, parents would be able to choose to send their children to schools that have a proven track record of success, whether that school is public or private.
Under a voucher system, teachers and their unions would have to prove their worth to parents, not school boards. In PA there is a new teachers strike every week. These teachers walk out because their free health insurance is being threatened or their compensation is only being increased by a guaranteed 3% a year for the next 3-5 years. Rarely, if ever, have they left their schools because the quality of education or the quality of materials available to help students learn, is below expectations. That is not to say that teachers don’t care about students, many do. But too often unions and bureaucracies fight for the wrong thing, money.
Sen Obama also supports education reform in the form of vouchers. However his plan limits their use only to public schools. Why? Simply put, teachers unions have given him millions of dollars in support throughout his campaign and he does not want to aggravate those members. Vouchers for use in public education will not solve the problem of failing schools. His policy is simply throwing more money in a different direction. And while vouchers are not the only component of his education platform, all of the other policy adjustments he has proposed are based on spending more money for the already failing schools and teachers.
Personally, I would love to see education reform through the use of school vouchers. Parents would finally be able to make a choice that would benefit their children without considering an additional expense ( in most cases). Schools would have to reform in order to retain students, and like Senator McCain said, schools would have to answer to parents not unions. But whether or not this reform happens, as a parent I will still make the choice of where to send my children to school, no matter the cost and sacrifice I have to endure because I know that education is the best thing I can ever give my kids.