Whatever the merits of, or problems with, charter schools, those schools at least are public. Schools that benefit from the voucher programs so beloved by our Governor and legislators are not, and the public dollars going to such schools are not necessarily being used to educate children.
I have lots of problems with vouchers, many of which are detailed in this article I wrote several years ago. I won’t bore you with the whole list. Read the article if you’re interested. But a warning from voucher opponents that has consistently fallen on deaf ears is that families who would opt for private or parochial schools in any case–families whose children already attend such schools–would be beneficiaries of a windfall. They would take money intended to enable poor kids to opt out of nonperforming public schools.
Evidently, that’s exactly what is happening in Indiana.
Father Jake of St. Jude parish in Fort Wayne, Indiana, indicates that, thanks to the impending influx of tax dollars, the church will soon be getting a repaired air conditioning system, redecorating the church, new paint, and repairs to the church steeple.
The link above the quote will take you to a fairly lengthy post in Education Week Teacher by a woman who listened to Father Jake’s speech. As she also reported (emphasis in the original):
I was appalled when he said that most of the students who are accepting vouchers are already attending St. Jude’s (minute 40:57). Wasn’t one of the selling points of “opportunity scholarships” to reach out to economically disadvantaged students so that they could attend the private school of their choice? Weren’t students to qualify for vouchers based on the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Guidelines?
Father Jake says with a chuckle that scholarships must be based on need, but the parish is free to determine what this means (minute 39.47). He says that since the Indiana Supreme Court says that vouchers are constitutionally allowable because the money goes to the tax payer, so the Indiana Choice Scholarship comes essentially with no strings (minute 42:00). Father Jake goes on to say that he doesn’t see the program going away because the state of Indiana is saving millions of dollars a year by taking $4700 off the top of the funding formula to give to voucher kids rather than spending the $7000 per public school child in the state formulation. So, the state saves over $2000 per student, but at what cost to our community schools?
Somehow, it doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy to know that Indiana is saving tax dollars by shortchanging children and re-roofing Father Jake’s church.