I checked out Joanne Jacobs site recently and found she had a couple of pieces dealing with vouchers. In the first one that I read I learned that Congress had killed a voucher program in Washington, D.C..
Democrats in Congress just killed an experiment that gives 1,700 poor Washington kids school vouchers. They even refused to grandfather in the kids already in the program, so those children will be ripped away from their mentors and friends.
Now, I have no first hand experience with the D.C. school system, so if I am off base on this, I hope someone will shoot me down. But my understanding is that the D.C. school system is pretty bad. When I say that, I have no idea how good or bad the teachers and administrators are, and this is certainly not meant as an indictment of them. My assumption is that they are dealing with a lot of kids from rough neighborhoods with a lot of social problems.
I am no fan of vouchers, but if a school system is really bad, I think they are appropriate. I'm convinced that the most common cause of a bad school is not bad teaching or bad administration, but a high number of kids in the classrooms who can ruin learning for those kids who do want an education. I don't know how any union, any political party, or anyone who cares about education can in good conscience argue that kids who want an education should be stuck in those classrooms.
I believe that the best solution would be for the teacher to be given the power to remove those kids who ruin the educational environment, but neither Arne Duncan or Barack Obama have called me lately, so I don't expect my solution to be enacted anytime soon. That being the case, having vouchers is one way that students who want to learn can move into decent educational environments.
The second piece I saw on Joanne's blog promoted a full-scale voucher program for the United States. That I completely disagree with. While enough bad students can ruin an educational environment, good students are essential for it. Remove enough good students from a classroom, and a great learning environment can become a mediocre one. A full-scale voucher system would threaten to do this to public school classrooms across our nation.
The good thing about vouchers is that it allows kids with parents who care about their kids' education to move their kids to a place where they can learn. The big problem with that is that there are other kids who care about their education or have the potential to care with parents who don't give a rip. Those parent are probably not going to bother with vouchers. Get those kids together with good students, and they might be wonderful students themselves. Remove the good students, and their situation becomes hopeless. In a public school system that is already hopeless, that's acceptable. In any other situation it's not.