Vouchers and the public schools

Vouchers and the public schools

Marlow Ediger

The topic of vouchers comes up frequently in the news media. More parental choice as to where the offspring is to be sent to school is advocated by selected educators. Others feel the public schools, rather, should be improved upon with smaller class size as well as quality teachers and facilities. The debate does not subside but goes on.


There is considerable debate about the pros and cons of using vouchers to foster more favorable educational opportunities for children. With vouchers, a parent could use the money from the school the child is presently attending to a perceived more favorable educational system. Thus, the moneys for that child leaves the sending school and goes to the receiving school which the child proposes to attend. Generally, vouchers are used where a school is labeled as failing. Thus, the school may not meet standards within a state based on test scores of learners. Schools labeled as failing then need to upgrade their curriculum and school experiences provided for children.

Children in failing schools might then be sent to either parochial schools or to other public schools. Pupils might also be sent to a private non parochial school but these are far and few in number. When a child is in a failing school, the parent is in the driver’s seat in choosing a school for the offspring to attend (Education Week, April 9, 2003).

Problems Involved in Selecting a Voucher School

There are a plethora of problems involved in choosing a school for the child from a failing school to attend. First, the receiving school may require more money for enrolling as compared to what the sending school provides in terms of a voucher. If the sending school has a voucher value of $4,000 per child and the receiving parochial school requires $7,000 annually per child, the parents need to fork up the difference of $3,000. Many parents will not have that kind of money, even for a single child.

Failing schools will generally be in the low-income areas of a city or area. These children generally have not had the learning opportunities than have children from the suburban areas of a city.

Second, transportation needs to be paid by the parents of the child attempting to enroll in a different school. Parents here might well find it a burden to pay for transportation costs or to personally transport the child to a different school. There are poor socio economic parents who do not possess a car, as a minimum, to transport their child.

Third, a handicapped child may find it impossible to enroll in a private school. It costs about three times more to teach a handicapped pupil as compared to a normal child. Most private school pupils will then need to be educated in the regular pubic schools. Many parents of handicapped pupils might be dissatisfied with their child’s education.

Fourth, most private schools are Catholic institutions of education. Protestant parents may not desire to have their offspring educated in a Catholic school. Religious and denominational beliefs are very important to many parents.

Fifth, a private Catholic school may have too many admission criteria, which then eliminate a plethora of pupils from tuition voucher advantages. Thus, a learner wishing to enter a private school may not meet academic test result standards of a possible receiving school. The standards are set high for pupils to meet in obtaining a select group of parochial school pupils. Pupils are to succeed in school and not be floaters. Catholic schools view it a privilege to enroll in their schools, not a right.

Sixth, there is much homework for a pupil to do each day. An easy way of achievement is generally not in the offing. Attending a private school will not in and of itself provide a graduating genius. It takes hard work and effort together with good native endowment to get to the top of the class in any school (See Au, 1993).

The Advantaged Individual in Society

Voucher money may go to parents whose children presently are doing well in parochial school education. These children are already enrolled in parochial education and are achieving optimally academically. These children have met all the hurdles for admission and retention in parochial education. But, it is the pupil in a failing school who may need attention. Failing schools are so labeled if they do not meet state academic standards two years in row. The standards might be based on standardized or criterion referenced test results. Why then might pupils in a low socio economic area do poorly in test results? Opposite is the tendency of suburban school pupils to do well on test scores and definitely not be labeled as attending “failing schools.” (Ediger and Rao, 2001).

Adequate family income does buy educational advantages such as more reading materials in the home setting, higher parental education levels which aid in maintaining a sophisticated level of home conversation, family trips and tours of other states and of nations abroad. Advantages pay for participation in extra curricular activities after school, having suitable food as well as clothing for all occasions, quality medical care, and the list goes on.

The question arises as to why available money is not allotted to improving public schools, especially in low-income areas, instead of having alternative forms of schooling. If the money for each child leaves a sending public school and goes to a receiving parochial school, funding the former decreases and standards might well go downhill (Ediger and Rao, 2000).

Are There Better Solutions than Vouchers to Improve Education?

Available money can be spent very favorably in a plethora of ways to improve education and schooling. First, class size needs to be lowered whereby each pupil can receive the attention needed in the academics to achieve more optimally. Too many children in a classroom are too difficult to manage and assist individually. Reducing class size means hiring more teachers and building additional structures to educate children.

Second, adequate salaries need to be paid each teacher so that teaching becomes a favorable socio economic status profession. Teachers who are paid an adequate salary do not need to hold a second job or worry about getting bills paid. Adequately insured teachers for health problems makes for less worry if disaster should strike requiring medical attention. Teachers who feel well physically and emotionally should be higher achievers in teaching as compared to those who need attention in having good health.

Third, each school needs to be located in a healthful area and have modern sanitary facilities to prevent contamination and the introduction of diverse kinds of diseases. Steam radiators for heating need to be replaced with an up to date heating system. Air conditioning needs to be available for warm, hot days of schooling. The school building should be an attractive, comfortable place for learning. Broken windowpanes, toilets which do not flush, water pipes, which leak, banging radiators for heat, among other evils, should be eliminated. Children in lower income areas need to attend quality schools as others do in society.

Fourth, in-service education for all teachers is a necessity. Low-income area schools need good teachers to assist each child to achieve optimally. Too frequently, suburban schools have the better teachers, leaving the others for lower income schools. Teachers need to meet certification requirements and teach in their academic areas of certification and expertise. Emergency certification should be banned and teaching outside one’s area of preparation should also be eliminated.

Fifth, schools need to be properly supplied with appropriate teaching materials. These include up to date textbooks and workbooks, audiovisual materials (video tapes, CD ROMS, curriculum related cassettes, computer access available for each pupil, adequate art supplies and materials, library books on diverse topics and genres as well as on different reading levels, supplementary readers on different reading levels, among other vital items of instruction). A developmentally-appropriate curriculum should be the lot of each pupil. Science and mathematics equipment should be available to stress a hands-on approach in learning.

Sixth, teacher aides such as retired teachers, parental support and help in the classroom, mentor teachers, student teachers, and other capable, responsible helpers, need to assist the regular teacher. Regular teachers should not be forced to accept aide service, but it is available, if needed, to provide for individual differences among pupils. All schools should be well equipped for instruction, including low-income area schools.

Seventh, school buildings need to be safe and secure so that pupils may learn and teachers teach, both in satisfying ways. Visitors should sign in at the principal’s office when coming to a school. This gives all school personnel a chance to know who is in the building.

Monitoring cameras in critical places as well as electronic gates may need to be installed to support security in the school. Teachers and support personnel should be trained and educated to spot questionable packages, objects, and persons in a school building. A safe environment for learning is a must. A carefully devised plan for school safety needs to be in the offing. Good mental health is salient for all pupils in a sound school environment (Ediger, and Rao, 2003).

Good Teaching in the Classroom

All pupils deserve quality instruction. Teaching and learning situations should challenge pupils and yet make it so that each learner is successful. This is difficult to emphasize in a classroom of 25 to 30 pupils per room. Pupils differ from each other in a plethora of ways including abilities, interests, and motivation. Carefully planned lessons and units for each day of teaching are musts! The psychology of learning needs to be stressed in all teaching endeavors. Thus, first of all, the teacher needs to ascertain how to engage pupils in learning. If one approach does not yield results in pupil learning, a different procedure needs to be attempted. Pupil involvement in learning is important. The activity, chosen for pupil learning, should be devised to capture pupil attention to achieve that which is worthwhile and is centered toward achieving stated objectives.

Second, pupils and the teacher have a reason for stressing certain kinds of sequential learning opportunities. Busy work, a dumbed down curriculum, and/or the routine is not advocated, but a carefully thought through curriculum is. Here, objectives are challenging but achievable. The learning opportunities to achieve objectives are varied to provide for individual differences, including learning styles and intelligences. The assessment procedures determine ongoing pupil achievement.

Third, the curriculum stresses a separate subjects as well as an integrated curriculum, depending upon the needs of the leaner. The curriculum may be taught as a separate subject such as specific learnings in mathematics or integrated as in problem solving whereby subject matter is chosen as it assists to gather needed information to solve identified problems.

Fourth, the needs of pupils, individually, should enter in to the development of the curriculum. There are definite social needs such as learning to work together on committees as well as being able to do things individually. Subject matter needs, too, must be entertained, such as in reading content critically as well as creatively. The information age produces much subject matter and the ideas therein must be analyzed, resulting in critical thinking. Parents, also, have definite wants for their children to be fulfilled.

Fifth, emotional needs of pupils are to be stressed in the ongoing curriculum. Thus, pupils need recognition for things well done or whereby improvement over previous attempts at learning has been improved upon. Pupils do need recognition with esteem needs being met. Pupils do not want to be a nobody, but be a person who feels fulfilled in becoming the kind of person desired. The put down, the one being on the receiving end of bad “jokes,” or being called by an undesirable nickname is to be eliminated. Rather, the pupil needs to feel an uplift of one who possesses much worth. This is especially true for children of low-income levels.

Six, physiological needs must be met. The need for properly fitting clothing, which is in harmony with the seasons and with the appropriate style of the times, must be in the offing. Clothing which does not fit properly by being too tight or too large in size is not conducive to the proper feeling dimension of the learner. Quality, clean clothing for each pupil is a must, regardless of the income level of the child’s family. Good, nutritious school lunches and breakfasts help pupils to meet food needs and do better in school. After school meals and during the school week food needs must also be met (Metcalf, et. al. 2003).

Pupils in low-income areas need a quality curriculum and other services, which strengthen the desire to learn. Merely transferring to a different school may help little to remedy difficulties involved. The pupil from a low-income area needs to feel well physically, socially, and emotionally to achieve optimally in academic studies. Schools in low-income areas must be equal in quality to those in suburbia in order for learners in low-income areas to do well on tests. The best of teachers need support to guide optimal learner achievement and progress. Pupils from low-income areas need to have the best education possible. Merely attending a parochial school will not improve their status unless high standards of education are met. The public schools do have the viability to provide for a plethora of pupils in the school setting. The latter need to be supported with money and lots of it. It takes money to have good education, be it in public or parochial, or in low or high-income areas in society (Parker 2001).


Au, Kathryn. H. (1993), Literacy Instruction in Multicultural Settings. Orlando: Harcourt.

Ediger, Marlow, and D. Bhaskara Rao (2001), Teaching Social Studies Successfully. New Delhi, India: Discovery Publishing House, Chapter Four.

Ediger, Marlow, and D. Bhaskara Rao (2000), Teaching Reading Successfully. New Delhi, India: Discovery Publishing House, Chapter Seven.

Ediger, Marlow, and D. Bhaskara Rao (2003), Elementary Curriculum, New Delhi, India: Discovery Publishing House, Chapter Eighteen. Education Week (April 9, 2003). Marion, Ohio, 22 (30).

Metcalf, Kim, et. al (2003), “State University Roles in the Charter School Movement,” Phi Delta Kappan, 84 (7), 542-545.

Parker, Walter C. Social Studies in Elementary Education. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc.


Truman State University 201 W. 22nd, Box 417 North Newton, KS. 67117

COPYRIGHT 2003 Project Innovation (Alabama)

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group