Friday, January 18, 2013

My letter to state Senator Arnold opposing expansion of the voucher program

Dear Senator Arnold

I am writing to strongly recommend opposing SB184 - a measure to expand the K - 12 voucher program.

Vouchers drain badly needed funding from the public school system - often to the benefit of private religious institutions.  In addition, these schools offer no public accountability for their actions and often decline to accept students who are more difficult to educate.

Even if one thinks student test scores are a useful metric for determining student proficiency, voucher programs have not shown themselves to have made any significant change.  I would suggest that the Milwaukee voucher program, which has been in place for over twenty years illustrates that point well.

Instead of these types of gimmicky programs, we need to get serious about improving the public school system.  Sadly, the General Assembly doesn't seem to truly be interested. 

A budget, above all other things is a statement of values.  The GA has taken away the ability of citizens, through their local governments, to fund K-12.  Disguised as a benefit, the State has taken over that role and continually reduced financial support.  Not what many of us expected or support.

We should be discussing the institution of state sponsored pre-Kindergarten programs, not whether our schools can afford music classes any longer.  We know early exposure to education for children from challenging situations is critical for their futures and of great benefit to society generally.

And make no mistake:  Though some will honestly argue the perceived merits of programs like this, many others will advocate purely out of business interests.  It's not so easy to tell them apart all the time.

Thank you for reading this.

Don Wheeler
South Bend

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