Vouchers

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As the debate over the constitutionality and feasibility of state and federally funded voucher programs continues, it has become clearly evident that the large urban school systems in which vouchers are most likely to have the greatest impact are only getting progressively worse. In light of this continual regression, the siren call of vouchers for use in urban school districts is becoming increasingly harder to outright reject, and has in many cases been bolstered by knew evidence showing promising results in urban schools. The findings in my research would indicate that this trend toward utilizing vouchers specifically for inner city schools stands the best chance over time of equaling the academic playing field. Furthermore, as seen through a Christian view of education, equality, and justice, the demand from the Christian community should be that whatever forces are necessary be implemented to right the wrongs of school inequalities. In the case of urban schools, I believe vouchers show the most promise as the necessary corrective measure.

As of recently, much of the information and research regarding how voucher programs would affect urban school districts has been shrouded in the hyperbole and rhetoric of both the liberal union backed views, and the more radical free market conservative views such as those espoused by Milton Friedman. In truth, I believe there is ample room in the middle to find compromise on just how to make vouchers feasible for economically disadvantaged children. The recent results of numerous studies based on vouchers programs conducted in inner city school districts would tend to bear this notion out. However, there is more to the issue than simply deciding that vouchers are a good and positive step in the right direction. There is a need to understand why the inner city schools are faced with the problems they now have and what the reasons are for these problems.

One of the strongest arguments for vouchers and against the current system as it now exists is that of school funding and how it is derived. Under a majority of state laws, individual property taxes bear the largest burden of supporting the public school system. In effect, this creates a new form of segregation, where a families affluence affords them the choice to decide where they will live, hence improving their own children’s educational opportunities, and eliminating choice to those less fortunate (Goldhaber & Eide, 2002). In a system that is as biased as this, inner city schools are faced with the continual downward spiral of funding, while those who do achieve a degree of economic self-sufficiency leave the cities for better housing and schools. Miller (1999) recognizes this fact when he stresses that the quality of public education should not be dependent on an areas local wealth, unless that wealth is derived directly from the state.

On top of this, the inefficiency of the public school systems is supported by the growing evidence that they are not using their allocated educational resources to the best advantage of the students (Goldhaber & Eide, 2002). Most public schools, inner city included, operate at per pupil spending amounts that are double the amounts spent per pupil in both private and parochial schools. This then gives rise to the ever-increasing call from parents of children in urban schools to help them find a way to give their children an adequate education. In their study on racial desegregation, Meeks, Meeks and Warren (2000) found that there are a steadily increasing number of black parents who favor the voucher option. With this being said, the promise of vouchers as a means to helping African-American youth as evidenced in many new studies is very strong.

Some of the most recent evidence to this effect comes out of a report which sites results from three randomized field trials in inner city schools. The study (Howell, Wolf, Campbell and Peterson, 2002) analyzed the outcomes of three...
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