There has been a lot of debate recently about school vouchers and about some “libertarian” proposals to abolish public funding of schools and allow parents to be solely responsible for educating their own children.
The smooth reason offered for school vouchers is that public schools in many urban jurisdictions have failed, and that even low-income parents will benefit from being allowed to use government vouchers to send their kids to private or even parochial schools. The liberal counter is that it is irresponsible to take money from school systems, but rather that more needs to be invested in them. The conservative argument is that if a private school can do a better job in educating children in the basics, it makes sense for government to outsource to private sources sometimes and offer this option to parents. Often this is the case.
But the practical incentive for many taxpayers is resentment of being expected to subsidize through tax money extracurricular or particularly religious or diversity education programs to which they may have personal objection.
Another argument is that
publicly-funded education must focus only on the basic skills: English, math, science,
civics, foreign languages. Indeed, a well-founded objection to “Profiles of
Learning” education programs in
There is some subtlety to this. English courses include literature, and minorities may rightly complain about courses stilted towards white, Christian male authors. The interpretation of history, especially such subjects as slavery, segregation, the Holocaust, and even Stonewall must be sensitive to the different points of view and the horrors visited upon racial or religious minorities in the past by a white, “Christian” majority—a process that helps explain the adversarialism of much of today’s politics.
I would suggest, however, that no taxpayer (whether a parent or a person without children) should be required to subsidize behavior-oriented courses to which he or she objects. Therefore, funding on courses on sexual education (including education for gay teenagers) should be voluntary and come from private organizations.
But then, public funds should not go to religious instruction, either, a danger inherent in “faith based initiatives” in education under President Bush, unless there are strict audits. Another danger is that funds may go to institutions that have legal but objectionable employment practices (as to a religious school that excludes gays and lesbians as teachers, even for secular subjects.)
I have never objected “philosophically” to paying (indirectly, at least) real estate taxes to support public schools, since I benefited from them myself, even though I am childless.
A note about forced busing:
the 1960’s—during my own college, grad school and Army years—there was a
massive national effort to restore some semblance of racial balance in the
nation’s public school, especially in the South, after the 1954 Brown v.
Board of Education decision, with court-supervised busing. Sometimes busing
resulted in extremely long commutes for students. The racial balance philosophy
seems in part derived from the Court’s refutation of the earlier “separate but
equal” notion, which however, had been used to justify outright segregation
(indeed recalling the outrageous rhetoric of George Wallace and Orval Faubus in the late1950’s),
not “simply” the de facto segregation of “neighborhood schools”; yet the
philosophy does seem, in many “liberal” legal minds, suggest that some social
justice remedies still must (at least for “practical” reasons) deal with people
in groups before dealing with them as individuals. (I remember an informal
debate about this in 1998 on an Outwoods
hike with a civil rights attorney—because this has such an important
application in gay issues.) In some
cases, busing (or at least desegregation) resulted in at least temporary
lowering of academic standards in previous “white” schools. Busing continues
today (as with a recent Supreme Court decision retaining it in
One can take the collective arguments for justice through racial balance and affirmative action further. After all, there is a history of systematic discrimination and exclusion of blacks from society, and the state was a party to this—at one time through slavery (Dred Scott—Scott v. Sandford), then Jim Crow laws, segregation, and particularly the public school system. Other groups, such as the Jews, have similarly been victims in other parts of the world. So one is left with the idea that for gays, even of one believes in collective reparative remedies, the arguments must be much more subtle when dealing with the use of public funds for classroom agenda and even meeting places for groups like the Boy Scouts.
In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that neighborhood schools are sometimes acceptable and that forced busing is not always required. Freeman v. Pitts (1992). If the school district makes a good faith attempt at desegregation and resegregation occurs by private choice, the result is not unnecessarily an unconstitutional violation of equal protection, or Brown v. Board of Education (“all deliberate speed”).
For related discussion of affirmative action, see http://www.doaskdotell.com/content/affirmac.htm
A note about church and state
I recognize the seriousness of the principles involved, even if I appreciated the small amount of Bible reading in public school in the 1950s when I was in grade school (I loved the crinkling sound of Bible pages) and never questioned prayers before assemblies! I’ve never been one to oppose, say, nativity scenes at Christmas in public spaces.
insists that grants to religious charities will be audited so that they may not
use federal money for religious instruction. In a practical way, this means
that religious groups must set up separate corporations, a practice often
followed today. In Do Ask Do Tell
I give an account of the way I was “greeted” by Catholic Charities in
Bush advocated and got passed the “No Child Left Behind Law” which adds
specific federal accountabilities for schools’ academic performance in basic
subjects like reading and mathematics, reforms actually started in the
“No Child Left Behind” also increases licensing and certification requirements for teachers and paraprofessional school employees in some cases, including long term substitute teachers. English and math must be taught by highly qualified teachers (both as to subject matter and grade level). Disadvantaged students (whether from medical handicap, language impairment, non-English speaking, poverty, or a number of problems like dyslexia, hyperactivity or emotional disorders) must, in some cases, have the help of qualified special education teachers in their various subject-oriented classrooms. Certification may include passing Educational Testing Service Praxis I and II tests. (Many localities and states allow substitutes to teach without teaching licenses.) This observation may be important as persons displaced from the workplace (especially information technology) or retiring may be attracted to teaching, a profession that cannot be off-shored and that offers the psychological rewards and obligations of public service. Career-switching programs are available and local universities, but workers may not be willing to invest in them without assurance that sufficient budget for their teaching jobs will be available when they graduate. More many people, teaching (below the college level) changes the emphasis from content alone to working with people (minors) and being responsible for them. So teaching could be viewed as a kind of “national service” commitment, if it were so structured, and that would go beyond what we normally think of as “a job.” Teaching in social studies, English, and even health and physical education, and maybe even biology can involve the challenge of handling controversial subjects about which some students will come from cultural backgrounds with very fixed positions (often founded on religion). This can present real dilemmas about fairness and objectivity (reconciling to the wishes of parents) when talking about minorities, religion, or gay issues. Persons who have already been publicly controversial in previous employment or published writings might be unsuitable for a commitment to full time teaching below college level in public schools; this is a problem similar to what exists and has been growing for journalists; for more see this reference. Full time teachers, in many districts, must be willing to teach some sections of disadvantaged or education-impaired students. Up through high school, public school districts must offer tracks for severely disabled and mentally retarded students, and sometimes other teachers (and substitutes) may be invited or expected to participate in some of the associated tasks (and these can include custodial tasks or other athletic tasks like swimming). But the availability of private schools and vouchers can also fit into a solution for expanding education to the disadvantaged.
aspect of NCLB (in conjunction with the Individuals With Disabilities Education
is the notion of “disaggregation,” a concept
that sounds like a liberal notion related to affirmative action. Here it refers
to measuring a school’s performance with respect to specific groups of students
who may have, for a reason specific to the group, a learning disadvantage.
Students must pass standardized (“Standards of Learning” or
Idol winner (technically runnerup) Clay Aiken has
taught special education (for autisim) and is
participating his own foundation, http://www.bubelaikenfoundation.com/ See also Diane Austin’s commentary “On Autism
and Clay Aiken,”
initiatives implemented in public schools, following libertarian philosophy,
started by Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg can provide new models for improving
educational performance and test score performance of low-income children, as
with KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program, which is being implemented in more
urban schools around the country. The programs feature long school days,
intensive drill on the basics, strict contracts for students and teachers who
must be “on call” at all times for students, and have achieved impressive
results with students from poor neighborhoods. They have also caused
controversy when first introduced. Jay Matthews provides a Washington Post
many states or metropolitan areas, substitute teaching provides an attractive
opportunity for flexible interim employment at a reasonable hourly rate, though
usually without benefits; it provides opportunities for both retired people and
new college graduates stepping towards new careers, and especially to artists,
actors, writers or musicians who often need other income and who can provide
interesting perspectives. Often a teaching license or certification tests is
not required. In some school districts with weaker budgets and teacher layoffs,
however, only certified teachers are used. Substitute teachers may be surprised
to find that the job, even in high school, tends to emphasize the ability to
work with or supervise non-adult or non-intact people rather than just deal
with academic subject matter. Often the requirements are arcane, such as
letters of reference (corporate employers usually don’t give those any more for
legal liability reasons), and a tuberculosis certificate (since TB is extremely
hard to transmit in most situations, although maybe not to those with
compromised immune systems), and fingerprint check. I have wondered if substitutes should be
required to have first-aid training and CPR certification, as some school
districts require of regular teachers.
(Also one should know the Heimlich Maneuver.) Ironically the first episode of Smallville in 2001 featured a scene where the
I notice that there is more “pressure” to encourage individuals to participate in mentoring children. Mentoring is a more demanding experience than is tutoring in a specific academic subject. This invitation may be extended to the childless (and singles and gays) but that would be controversial. There is more of a sense today that one should give others personal attention than there was perhaps ten years ago. Yahoo has promoted January (2005) as National Mentoring Month. Mentoring sites talk about “Big Brothers” and “Big Sisters” with (your) “Little.” The reader can visit http://hosted.bbbsa.org/big/index.asp
took a workplace course in CPR at Chilton in 1983, and a second one for a gay
outdoor group in 1991. It seems now that the typical certification course takes
around 4-5 hours, or around 7-8 hours if
ãCopyright 1997, 2004, 2005
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 Sometimes spelled bussing
 See the conflict of interest referemce http://www.doaskdotell.com/highproductivitypublishing/coirules.htm point 9
Raspberry. “Giving ‘No Child’ a Chance,” The