The Empty Rhetoric of Voucher Advocates

 “I need your help,” Walker told a crowd of about 350 people, the majority of them children, on April 25. “We need you to help us spread that message to other lawmakers in our state Capitol, because they need to understand this is not a political statement; this is not a political campaign. … This is about children.”

Wisconsin State Journal.

The proponents of the proposed expansion of Wisconsin’s private-school voucher program have run out of substantive arguments.  Governor Walker’s “This is about children” illustrates how vacuous their efforts at persuasion have become.

When Governor Walker’s budget was first announced, his initial talking points in support of his voucher expansion plan featured the claim that schools in the nine targeted school districts were failing and vouchers were necessary to provide a lifeline to students who needed help to pursue other schooling options. Neither the governor nor his supporters are pushing that argument any more. It seems that they got the point that it is not a smart move politically for the governor to go around trashing the public schools in some of the larger urban areas of the state.

While proponents have claimed that students in voucher schools do better academically, the wind has gone out of the sails of that argument as well. DPI has reported that students in voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine performed worse on the WKCE than students in the public schools in those communities.  Voucher school advocates can point to data that supposedly support their view, opponents can counter with contrary figures, and at best the evidence on improved student performance is a wash.  There is no reason to think that students in the nine districts targeted for voucher expansion would do any better in the private schools in their area than they would in their neighborhood public schools. No one has offered an argument to the contrary.

Voucher proponents sometimes try to construct a cost-savings argument around the fact that the per-pupil amounts that voucher students would receive are less than the average per-pupil expenditures by their school districts. But this argument goes nowhere because no one is proposing that the public schools shut down as voucher schools expand. Consequently, there’s really not much of a response to the observation credited to former Governor Tommy Thompson that “We can’t afford two systems of education.”

Additionally, voucher schools have not discovered a magic bullet that allows them to educate students across the spectrum of needs more economically. Here’s a telling excerpt from an op ed by the Choice Schools Association advocating for much higher voucher payments and posted on line by the right-wing MacIver Institute:

So how do choice schools serving the poorest families manage to succeed despite the financial tourniquet [of receiving less public funding than public schools]? Some schools have been successful with fundraising and philanthropy, but most operate “on the backs” of their teachers by paying low salaries, curtailing employee benefits and foregoing support staff. Clearly, that is not a formula for long term viability.

No, it’s not.  It’s also a pretty lousy argument for voucher schools.

It is occasionally suggested that public schools will improve if they are forced to shake off their monopolistic slumber and compete for the patronage of savvy and informed parents who have voucher school options.  Surprisingly, the pro-voucher Wisconsin Policy Research Institute demolished this argument back in 2007 when it published a study that, in the words of the Institute, “did not yield the results we had hoped to find.”  Instead, the report concluded that no more than ten percent of voucher-eligible parents will exercise their options in a way that is responsive to the relative quality of the schools available to them.

With no real substantive evidence demonstrating the value of voucher schools, proponents for the expansion of the program have fallen back on celebrating the notion of “choice” itself.  Last month, the American Federation for Children issued a press release keyed to a pro-voucher rally it sponsored in Waukesha.  The release included quotes from supportive Republican legislators. Here is a sample:

Assembly Speaker Vos:  “Parents across Wisconsin deserve to have the choice to send their child to the school that best meets their educational needs.”

Senator Kedzie:  “I support providing parents the opportunity to choose the most appropriate educational setting for their child.”

Representative Strachota: “When it comes to choosing the right school for their children parents need true options, which is why I support expanding school choice in Wisconsin.”

Representative Craig: “All parents should have the ability to choose the best education options for their children.”

Representative August:  “I fully support Governor Walker’s efforts to expand School Choice in Wisconsin, as School Choice allows parents to choose the best school for their child. “

Senator Lazich:  “Providing parents choices for their child’s education, gives students more opportunities for success.”

Do you sense a common theme here?  Voucher school expansion is good because it allows parents to choose the best schools for their children.

But here’s a news flash: parents already have that choice.  They are free to send their children to parochial or other private schools, transfer to other public schools in their school district, open enroll into public schools in neighboring school districts or into virtual schools, or be home schooled.

The issue isn’t whether parents should have a choice.  That issue is settled: they do.  It is whether the government should subsidize their preference for other options when parents decide that the public schools provided for their children aren’t what they want.

It is hard to see what larger societal interest is furthered by these subsidies.  This is particularly so since there is no convincing evidence that voucher students learn more than they would in public schools and it is apparent that creating a second, private, taxpayer-supported school system is both costly and damaging to our existing public schools, which must be the education providers of last resort for everyone.  “Choice” isn’t a virtue when it is created by offering options that undermine our important institutions.

That private school vouchers may be popular among parents who would like to use them is neither surprising nor significant.  The beneficiaries of a government program are usually supportive of the program.  The legislature could propose giving a twenty-five percent break on state income taxes to all Wisconsin residents born in the month of December. The proposal would probably be enthusiastically supported by about eight percent of the population.

But that doesn’t make the proposal a sound one. The salient question would be whether a legitimate state interest or policy would be furthered as a result of the new benefits that the proposal would create. Giving tax breaks to those with December birthdays would flunk this test. Unless someone can articulate a legitimate state interest that is furthered by expanding and increasing the entitlements paid to families attending private schools, so does the voucher expansion proposal.

So, “giving parents a choice” is both inaccurate as a description and inadequate as a justification for the private school voucher expansion proposal.

What’s left?  The one legitimate argument in support of voucher expansion is the libertarian and anti-government one that public schools are inherently bad. From this perspective, vouchers free parents from the tyranny of being forced to send their children to “government schools” where they will be indoctrinated into the left-leaning, overly-permissive, collectivist, statist mindset that saps the initiative and independent thinking of the vulnerable young.  The ever-quotable Senator Glenn Grothman captured this sentiment: “As we combat the moral and spiritual decline of our country, alternatives to our public schools are a necessity.”

From the hard-core libertarian perspective, expanding the voucher program makes all the sense in the world. The problem, though, is that most of us view the folks who swoon to this kind of thinking more as crackpots than as thought leaders. A referendum asking support for a policy of undermining “government schools” would fail resoundingly anywhere outside of a Ron Paul rally or an Ayn Rand fan club convention. Hence, the search for alternative arguments.

But, as the discussion goes on, it is becoming increasingly apparent that for the voucher expansion advocates searching for more socially acceptable and minimally persuasive arguments supporting their cause, the rhetorical cupboard is bare.

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18 Responses to The Empty Rhetoric of Voucher Advocates

  1. Karyn Rotker says:

    Well said. In addition, voucher schools fail to educate the hardest to serve children, especially children with disabilities (a systemic problem for which the program has just been hit by the US Department of Justice, and one that the purported special needs vouchers – which do NOT require any private school to actually accept children with disabilities – will not solve). https://aclu-wi.org/media/wisconsin-school-voucher-system-may-not-discriminate-against-students-disabilities-us#

  2. Torrey Jaeckle says:

    Ed,

    Your assessment of the school choice movement is incorrect. Our cupboard is not bare. You are correct in pointing out that both sides can find “evidence” that supports their conclusion – that choice either improves outcomes or it doesn’t. You are correct that the evidence in its totality is mixed. I will point out that the most valid studies – those that use randomized assignment, the “gold standard” of statistical research – overwhelmingly support the conclusion that choice does lead to better outcomes. I don’t think anyone at this point can completely prove anything one way or the other. But the best research we have does show that choice is valuable, especially for African American students. And in fact, when we say the evidence is “mixed” we are typically referring to the fact that some studies show choice has positive results, while other studies show no effect. Few studies show negative results.

    Even in cases where test scores don’t show much difference due to choice, we sometimes find graduation rates and college attendance are higher in choice students (as they are in Milwaukee). Rarely are they worse. There are beneficial outcomes from choice that cannot be measured in test scores.

    Of twenty gold standard studies that were done on the effects of choice on public school systems, nineteen found that choice had positive effects on public schools (ie, the public schools responded to the competition in positive ways), and one found no effect. No studies have found a negative effect of choice on public schools.

    Your reference to the DPI report showing that choice students in Racine and Milwaukee performed worse on the WKCE test than students in the public schools in those communities is valid to point out. It is also valid for me to point out that such a broad view of data without taking into account any demographic or other issues that may affect student outcomes is not presenting a conclusive picture. For example, it makes sense to assume that students in the worst performing public schools are the most likely students to exercise choice. Students in high performing public schools are less likely to leave their school to go elsewhere. Without knowing where each choice student’s test scores were prior to exercising choice not much of a conclusion can be reached. Without taking into account where a student started out and if and how far they advanced or fell further behind after exercising choice, it is hard to draw any conclusions. In addition, any credible study would require that any demographic differences between the students exercising choice and those not exercising it be accounted for and dealt with. You are the first one to do this when comparing Madison schools, with their high minority and low-income population, to other schools around the state. None of that takes place in the DPI data, because it’s not a statistical study – it’s simply data.

    You try to downplay the cost savings potential of vouchers by stating that “this argument goes nowhere because no one is proposing that the public schools shut down as voucher schools expand.” But Ed, certainly you aren’t positing that the entire budget of every public school is a fixed expense? Are there no variable expenses to educating children? If my local public school has 100 more students next year than this year are you saying they won’t receive more funding because of that? Or vice versa, if a school that used to have 500 students now only has 300, are you saying they will still need the same size budget to operate, the same number of teachers, the same number of books, etc.? Certainly not. There is a fixed and variable component to educating each child, and while we can quibble about what percentage is fixed and what percentage is variable, to try and posit that there are no cost reductions for a school when it’s enrollment declines is misleading.

    In addition, studies have shown that the MPCP has saved state taxpayers money. An Education Next article states, “The history of the MPCP illustrates how voucher programs can provide significant taxpayer savings when students voluntarily choose to attend schools that draw less on public funds than the schools they would otherwise attend.” (http://educationnext.org/who-gains-who-loses/)

    You criticize choice proponents for “falling back on celebrating the notion of ‘choice’ itself.” Your assumption is that choice for choice’s sake is not valuable. I disagree. When one purchases a car they typically need something that will get them from point A to point B. Any type of car will do that. But aren’t we all better off having choices to choose from? Don’t we all choose different cars, with different features and amenities, and for different reasons? If measuring our satisfaction solely on whether a specific vehicle got us from point A to point B – a car’s main purpose – all cars would rate essentially the same. But if measuring our actual satisfaction with different vehicles, we all would have different ratings for different cars, based on our preferences, values, and desires. The farmer might be more satisfied with the Ford F150 and the university professor with the Toyota Prius. Is there not value for each in allowing choice? In education we typically measure educational outcomes in the form of test scores. But there are a whole host of other quality of life factors that affect a student’s and family’s satisfaction with their educational experience, and these don’t show up in test scores. Should we just ignore those factors? I think not. If two schools will lead to the same educational outcome for a particular student, but one school will lead to much greater quality of life and satisfaction on other non-test score outcomes, then I say let them attend that second school instead. Maybe that school fits the family’s values better; maybe they like the diversity the school provides better; maybe they think it’s safer. Whatever the reason, it is erroneous to ignore the fact that there are non-test score factors to take into account when measuring the success or non-success of school choice. And surveys show that choice families do report increased levels of satisfaction from exercising choice. In their research, Jack Buckley and Mark Schneider state in the Peabody Journal of Education that “Existing research, without exception, has found that parents are more satisfied with schools they have chosen.”

    The state already has public school choice via open enrollment. I am not sure of your stance on that, but I am assuming you do not support that policy. I would find it inconsistent for you to support choice in one form but not in another. If you submit that it may beneficial for some students to be in one public school over another, then that same logic can be extrapolated to include private schools as well.

    I talked to a little 5th grade girl in my neighborhood the other day and said, “Oh, you must be going to Cherokee next year.” She responded, “No, I looked at a couple of schools and chose Wright.” Good for her. So let me ask this: What is OK about her choosing Wright over Cherokee but so bad if she were to have used a voucher to choose Wingra, Edgewood, or some other private or parochial school instead? Why is choosing schools only good or OK when the choice is between two public schools?

    You refer to it as “subsidies” when public funds are allowed to follow a child to the school of their choice. But is it really a subsidy? Then what do you call so-called “free” public education? Is that not a subsidy as well then? If a family is bound by law to pay into a system whose goal is to make sure each child receives an education, and then all they want is some say in how and where that money – their money – is going to be spent, I think that’s a far cry from a subsidy. When the government is ALREADY spending five figures per year on your child on your behalf (partially with your own money through taxation), and all you want is to choose where the money will be spent to achieve the same end goal (education), well – I don’t know what you call that, but it is not a subsidy.

    Ed, when you state that “Parents already have choice. They are free to send their children to parochial or other private schools…” I am trusting that you are well aware that private school tuition is well-beyond affordability for many Madison parents. It’s a cop-out argument. Do you take the same stance with regards to Medicaid? “Hey, parents are completely free to buy health insurance for their kids, so why do we need Badgercare?” I think not. Or what about the free and reduced lunch program – are not parents free to purchase breakfast and lunch for their children already? Surely you see the folly of your logic. I am certain you do support public monies helping lower income families in other areas – so why are you hesitant to apply the same logic to vouchers? We are talking about a system whereby everyone, whether directly or indirectly, helps finance our education system via taxation. People are paying into this system. Coercing people to pay into a system of limited choices, and forcing them (especially those with low incomes) to pay again to exercise choice outside of those limitations if they deem it beneficial or necessary has a moral component to it, of which I feel choice supporters are on the right side of.

    In the end you state, “That private school vouchers may be popular among parents who would like to use them is neither surprising nor significant. The beneficiaries of a government program are usually supportive of the program.” Likewise Ed, the beneficiaries of a government monopoly are usually supportive of the monopoly. Frankly, I don’t see vouchers as a “program”. Public education is a series of tactics and activities coordinated towards creating an educated public. Vouchers can simply be one tactic used to achieve that goal.

    We’ll likely never see eye to eye on this, and part of that may be due to philosophical differences, part may be due to the data we choose to hold as most credible, and part may be due to differences in opinion as to the effect that competition can have on educational outcomes. Regardless Ed, when it comes down to it and there is a low income family that is struggling in or unhappy with their current school (whether it be public or private), I will always stand on the side that allows them to choose what they feel is a better option for their son or daughter. You however will be standing on the side that says that you know what’s better for their family than they do. I’m proud to be on the opposite side of that position.

    • Torrey –

      Thanks a lot for your comment. I really appreciate it when folks who disagree with me take the time to explain their thinking and point out perceived flaws in mine. It forces me to think more deeply about the points I’m trying to convey.

      That out of the way, let me explain why you’re wrong. There is a lot I could say, but I’ll try to focus on a relative handful of points and not repeat myself.

      I am not particularly troubled by open enrollment into public schools in other school districts. I don’t see it as anywhere nearly the threat to public education as vouchers – they’re all public schools, after all, and they all have to play by the same rules. I am even less troubled by students choosing to transfer among Madison’s public schools.

      I have not undertaken an in-depth examination of the studies of voucher school performance. From what I can tell, the evidence seems to be, at best, a wash, as I wrote. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel agrees with me. In its important April 30 editorial against the expansion of the voucher program, the paper stated– “The evidence isn’t persuasive that the choice schools have had much impact on achievement. Kids in the voucher schools do about the same, overall, as their peers in the public schools.”

      You disagree. Well, go ahead disagreeing, but I don’t think anyone who doesn’t already favor vouchers for philosophical or ideological reasons is going to be persuaded by your invocation of “gold standard” studies.

      By the way, as I have written before, I would expect the graduation rates for voucher students to be higher than for non-voucher students. I base this solely on the different degree of involvement of the parents of the students in the two groups. Similarly, I’d expect students who take private music lessons to graduate at higher rates than students who don’t. But correlation isn’t causation and we shouldn’t provide vouchers for private schools or for private music lessons based simply on graduation rates.

      Yes, I do appreciate the difference between fixed and variable expenses, as you know. But I can assure you that a high percentage of expenses for public schools are fixed, at least when considered over a reasonable time horizon.

      I am confident that we would see a couple of financial consequences flowing from a broad expansion of the voucher program. First, the per-student revenues that public schools will lose will exceed the per-student savings in variable expenses they will realize from departing students. Public schools will require higher per-student funding, not lower, to provide the same level of service.

      Second, to the extent that voucher schools get established, they will inevitably advocate for funding parity with public schools (and they have some might effective lobbyists). It is certain that the overall public cost of all publicly-supported schools will go up, or overall quality will go down, or – most likely – both will occur.

      I think you are seriously mistaken when you equate voucher payments to Badgercare or the provision of free or reduced lunch to schoolchildren. Those two programs are particular manifestations of our commitment to provide some basic support to the less-well-off among us. Contrary to your suggestion, I don’t view the option to choose and pay for alternatives as rendering these programs unnecessary to those who qualify because there is no alternative public program providing comparable free or low-cost benefits that is available to them. The situation is obviously different for vouchers

      But let’s stick with your analogy for a moment. There are certainly students qualifying for free and reduced lunch who don’t like the food options offered in the school cafeteria and so would like some financial help to allow them buy food at a nearby McDonalds, or, if you prefer, at a nearby organic food co-op. Choice is good, right? Competition is good, right? So McDonalds or Willy Street Co-op Gift Cards all around, right?

      Of course not. Government discharges its obligation to hungry low-income students by providing school cafeteria food at free or reduced prices. The obligation is to meet the students’ nutritional needs, not their wants.

      How are vouchers any different than the McDonalds gift cards? In fact, vouchers are worse, because it becomes harder and harder to provide quality education at a reasonable or semi-reasonable cost when more and more students leave the public schools.

      The students left behind will disproportionately be children who do not have the benefit of involved parents advocating on their behalf. As these things go, these children will also disproportionately have significant educational needs that are relatively more costly to meet. The average level of need of the students in the school will go up, as will the cost of meeting their needs, even in a perfunctory way.

      This change in the mix of students will also make the schools relatively less appealing to the parents whose children still remain. More will seek other options, which can accelerate a downward cycle of fewer and fewer students with more and more needs.

      You can assert that competition would be good for the public schools, but in fact competition among schools doesn’t work well when one of the competitors has the obligation to be the educational provider of last resort. This is an obligation that our public schools gladly assume, but it eliminates the possibility of the kind of level playing field that is a prerequisite for an effective and beneficial competitive process.

      Part of the reason we like “choice” and competition in commercial markets is that we are not overly troubled when firms that are unable to satisfy the wants and needs of consumers fail and exit the market, a key aspect of the Schumpterian “perennial gale of creative destruction.” We should feel differently, however, if it is our public schools that are being driven out of business.

      According to the U.S. Supreme Court, “We have recognized ‘the public schools as a most vital civic institution for the preservation of a democratic system of government,’ . . . and as the primary vehicle for transmitting ‘the values on which our society rests.’” So adopting a policy that undermines our public school system is a big deal.

      I did not see in your response the identification of a state policy or interest that is furthered by an expanded voucher program, other than making it more affordable for parents to send their children to private schools. For the reasons I have tried to explain, I think that, judged as a social policy, that is no better – and is in fact worse – than providing tax breaks to folks with December birthdays. So, I think that you are right that we will continue to disagree.

      • Torrey Jaeckle says:

        Thanks for your response Ed. Let me focus on the main point of your argument, which I feel it is the best argument against school choice that there is (even though I don’t think it holds up to scrutiny) – and that is the argument that public schools are obligated to accept all students, and are obligated “to be the educational provider of last resort.”

        Your main contentions are true, there is no disputing that. But there is nothing in the state Constitution or elsewhere that states that just because the public schools are the “educational provider of last resort” and must accept all students that they must also therefore be the educational provider of first resort. Your argument hinges on theoretical and pessimistic view of a “downward cycle” that will result in all children from engaged and involved families pulling out of the system in favor of other school options, leaving only children from disengaged and uninvolved families remaining in the traditional public schools. While that may be theoretically possible, it is incredibly unlikely to occur, and in fact is not occurring where choice already exists. As I have stated before, a significant number of people love their assigned public schools, and would not leave them even if given a voucher.

        But let’s assume for a moment that your pessimistic scenario were to actually occur to its fullest extent (and as I said, that is just not likely to happen). Let’s assume that we have widespread school choice and all the engaged kids pull out of the traditional public schools, and all that are left in the traditional public schools are the disengaged children. Certainly the average outcome of each public school would come down (graduation rates, test scores, etc.) due to the absence of the engaged kids boosting those measures – but this doesn’t also imply that the kids left are performing any worse. Let me ask – if this were to happen, who is better off and who is worse off in this situation? If the engaged children left to attend schools that are a better fit for them, certainly they are better off, or at least no worse off. As for the disengaged kids remaining in the traditional public schools, are they somehow worse off by the absence of an engaged child sitting next to them in the classroom? If mixing engaged and disengaged children in the same school raised the outcomes for the disengaged children, would we still have the large achievement gaps that we do amongst these two types of children? Note, I am not advocating for separating engaged and disengaged children. I am just saying, if it were to largely happen via choice (and that’s an unlikely “if”), would overall educational outcomes for society as a whole be better, worse, or no change? I really don’t see them being worse. The educational challenges and obstacles of reaching and educating a disengaged child exist and are the same in either scenario.

        But let’s suppose that one believes that the disengaged children are actually benefited – achieve higher educational outcomes as a result – by having more engaged children in the classroom. What your position would be then is that it is OK to sacrifice what may be in one child’s best interest (an engaged child choosing their school) in order to benefit another child or group of children. I think this may be the main point of difference between myself (and other classical liberals) and this progressive mindset of putting the collective interest above an individual’s personal interest. For me, the individual reigns supreme. That’s one of the main values that our nation was founded upon. Individuals should be free to pursue their best interests, and should not have to sacrifice the ability to make their own decisions in order to potentially benefit someone else or some other group of persons. So when it comes to education, I view the system as made up of millions upon millions of unique individual children, rather than as a single group of millions of children. If your main concern is “How do we set up a public school system that maximizes the number and types of students attending them?” it makes perfect sense to extract funding for the schools via taxation, make it the “first choice” (with it being “free”) for all children, and place a large cost burden on opting out. That certainly will help maximize the number of engaged and high-performing kids in the traditional public school system. But if your main concern is, as is for me, “How do we ensure that each child maximizes their PERSONAL educational outcomes, thus maximizing education outcomes for society as a whole?” then school choice makes perfect sense. I think what it boils down to is who reigns supreme – the individual, or the collective? The individual student, or the public school system? For me, that answer is always the individual. And regardless, I think your pessimistic view of the deterioration of the public schools as some children opt out is overly aggressive and unrealistic. As I’ve already pointed out, 19 of 20 studies already show that school choice has IMPROVED public schools, not harmed them. Your pessimistic theory doesn’t reflect the reality we’re seeing where choice does exist.

  3. Laura Chern says:

    I get a charge out of the terminology. “Choice” for schools is good. “Choice” for women?

    • David Blaska says:

      Yes, Laura, women should have a right to terminate their pregnancies but not decide where their child, should it survive, might attend school. I get it.

    • reality says:

      Laura, even worse, private schools like Edgewood allow the fathers to stay at the school, yet the pregnant girl has to leave.

  4. David Blaska says:

    I love it when a comment to a blog are longer than the blog and the response to the comment is longer still. So I’ll be brief. Your entire argument, Ed, turns on this point: “The issue isn’t whether parents should have a choice. That issue is settled: they do. It is whether the government should subsidize their preference for other options when parents decide that the public schools provided for their children aren’t what they want.”

    Do you see the fallacy there? “The government” is not subsidizing their choice for other options — the money follows the child. But the real fallacy is apparent in the current reality. Government is subsidizing one educational option regardless of how many families would choose to opt out. 90% of families — if given the choice — might say (as Sam Goldwyn once said), “Include me out!” Government would still subsidize the failed choice. As we know, government, once committed to a monopoly, will enact barriers to competition. Which is the present system. (Sure, send your kids to Edgewood but pay us first.)

    The basic, bright-line question you have to ask yourself, Ed, is why do you fear parents won’t choose the public schools if given that choice? And why do you labor so diligently to deny that choice?

    • Four quick points: 1. Among other reasons, “Government is subsidizing one educational option” because that’s what Article X, section 3 of the Wisconsin Constitution requires (“The legislature shall provide by law for the establishment of district schools . . . .”) 2. If 90 percent of the families in a school district are unhappy with the district’s schools, they could and should take over the local school board and make whatever changes they want and the law allows. 3. I oppose vouchers because I don’t view K-12 education as a consumer commodity and I see great value in all the kids in a neighborhood going to classes together at their neighborhood public school. 4. “Sure, send your kids to Edgewood but pay us first”? Come on now. When we pay our taxes, we’re not paying for our child’s public school tuition. We’re paying for a quality public education system, one that is good for our students and our families, good for our workforce and local economy, good for our property values, and good for our shared future together as Wisconsinites.

      • David Blaska says:

        1) And that constitutional provision, of establishing a district school, is being fulfilled. As we have demonstrated, school vouchers have been upheld by the state and federal supreme courts. Indeed, there is nothing to prevent the school district from contracting out all services to non-instrumentality charter schools. 2) Perhaps I should have used the example of 49% of parents unsatisfied. Witness what happened to all the people who voted for Wayne Strong. 3) It is wonderful that Ed Hughes sees great value in all the kids in a neighborhood going to the same school. (Progressives always know best.) Now, quit trying to take away MY choices. 4) You have not even attempted to refute my point. Aside from your own value judgements (and I do not trash MMSD except for its subservience to a chip-on-their-shoulder teachers union) he only thing you can say for certain is that yes, “We’re paying ….”

  5. 1. I didn’t assert that vouchers are unconstitutional. I said that we have a constitutional imperative to establish and maintain the public schools. 2. How am I taking away your choices? Isn’t it symptomatic of the kind of entitlement mindset that you condemn in other contexts to assert that you’re not really free to exercise a choice unless the government gives you the money to make it more affordable?

    • David Blaska says:

      Ed! The government is NOT giving me any money. It is taking my money! The government has no money except for what it has taken — through the coercive powers of the state — from individuals. (Another Progressive mistake) (BTW: see the story on the IRS apologizing for going after Tea Party groups in 2012 — which just happened to be an election year?)

      • reality says:

        David, Reality check. Your only child is over 18 (in fact in his 30s) and recently graduated from MATC and lives in a building you own. He is an adult and is very capable of making his own decisions.

      • David Blaska says:

        My point exactly, Reality Check, whether you meant it or not. My son is an adult and IS capable of making his own decisions. Doesn’t need Ed Hughes or Marj Passman to make them for him — altho I am sure he would want to know what they think in the process of gathering information from which to draw his own conclusions. Was that your point, Reality?

  6. Torrey Jaeckle says:

    I believe David is right – all the kids in a neighborhood going to classes together at their neighborhood public school may be a value you hold, but it may not be held by others (or at least not as highly held as other values). I value religious education incorporated into the curriculum for my children, but I would never impose that value on others. You seem content to use your value judgment on the neighborhood public school as a valid justification for coercing others to bring it to fruition (or at least pay out of pocket to do otherwise) – and that’s something that’s not required by the state Constitution. Regardless Ed, the neighborhood public school idea is already dead. Since 1925, consolidation has collapsed 115,000 U.S. school districts into about 15,000 while average school size has risen by a factor of five. In 1929 there were approximately 248,000 public schools, compared with about 99,000 in 2010. The system, in terms of the small “neighborhood school”, looks quite different today than it did many years ago
    .
    When us guys get together for our regular neighborhood poker game we have four different schools represented amongst our children. And at neighborhood gatherings, wonder upon wonders, all our kids still get along, play together, and have fun. The “neighborhood school” is not a requirement for instilling or experiencing neighborliness and community amongst our families and children.

    • reality says:

      Torrey, there are two groups of catholics who send their children to catholic schools. The first group, send their children to the school for religious reasons, go weekly to church, and practice what they preach. The other group of catholics, say they are sending their children because of “religious reasons” and maybe attend church on easter and xmas, don’t practice what they preach, and are their so they can be elitist. It is a real eye opener for children at Edgewood High School to talk to friends and how many of those same children say they don’t believe the catholic doctrine and neither do their parents.

  7. Mad4Madison says:

    Ed –

    This is why I enjoy reading your blog. Thank you again for engaging with the community.

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