school systems in america controversy

America’s public school systems are facing a series of major problems.  The classrooms are crowded, violence is growing, and test scores are falling.  Some people believe the ways the schools are funded are the reasons behind these problems.  There have been several ideas brought to the courts to try to solve the funding problems.  Open enrollment, more federal involvement, and local tax increases are a few of these suggestions.  However, the most controversial issue is that of vouchers.

Vouchers are certificates that the government gives to parents so that their child may go to the school of the parent’s choice (public or private).  This type of school funding is also known as parental choice.  This idea of parental choice in education is not a new concept.  The first person that developed the idea that parents should be allowed to choose their children’s education came from Adam Smith in 1776.  He explained this theory in his book The Wealth of Nations.  However, the controversies surrounding parental choice are fairly new.most discussed and argued issue surrounding vouchers is the inclusion of parochial schools.  Many people who believe strongly in the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which establishes the separation of church and state.  This clause allows for the question of the constitutionality in the voucher program.  This Constitutionality has been tried in a number of courts both at the state and Supreme Court levels.  In the 1970’s a series of Supreme Court rulings prohibited the use of government assistance to fund religious schools.  The landmark of Lemon V. Kurtzmand in 1971 set the criteria that courts use when determining whether state action violates the First Amendment when dealing with schools and religion.  In 1981 Maine amended its voucher program that was already set into place.  The federal district court excluded sectarian schools from the voucher program.  The federal district stated, although parents are free to send their child to a secretarial school they do not have the right to require taxpayers to subsidize that choice.  Another major issue revolving around the voucher system is that of segregation.  One argument states, if whites and blacks are completely free to choose their schools, integration will go to ruin.  In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the voucher system is used.  The population of African American students in the public schools is approximately 60 percent, whereas at Milwaukee’s most noted religious school five percent are African American.  Many analysts put the blame on the long running voucher program.

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Segregation not only applies to racial issues, but it also applies to any other form of discrimination.  Private schools have the option of choosing whom they accept; however, public schools do not.  In Milwaukee one continuous form of segregation and discrimination is dealing with students who have special educational needs.  These students make up about 15% of the public schools; however, these same students cannot attend private schools because the private schools don’t have the money to care for them.  These students are not getting the same opportunities as the other 85% of the student population.


The cost factor of the voucher program is another issue being discussed.  Everyone wants to see more money being placed into America’s school systems, buy at what price?  With the administration of a voucher program the odds of tuition rising are great.  As the tuition rate raises so will the amount of the vouchers.  That will be more money taken away from the public school systems.  In Milwaukee 15,000 students will be given public money to attend private and religious schools.  Each voucher is worth about $5,000 per student.  That adds up to as much as $75 million dollars in tax money that will be taken away from Milwaukee’s public schools alone.  The money that is being put towards private schools could be used to improve the standards of public facilities.  Private schools do not have to hire certified teachers, administer statewide tests, and do not have to release such facts as employee wages, benefits, and test scores.  Taking money away from public schools, which have state standards they must meet, may lead to less than satisfactory standards.


These issues pertaining to the voucher system are not the only issues courts have to consider when making a ruling about vouchers.  There are many other problems that must be considered as well.  The wisdom or parental choice is one topic.  Who is to say that every parent knows what is best for his or her child?  These are parents who are not capable of making such decisions.  There will be no need to be a new tenure established to deal with vouchers.  A whole new set of rules and regulations will need to set into place to regulate both the public and private schools equally.  In short the whole education structure will need drastically changed and all the bugs will need to be worked out before such program can even be considered at a national level.


The voucher program is designed to use tax money to pay for children attending public schools to go to private schools.  This program has stirred many controversial issues that are both economical and ethical.  These issuesinclude constitutionality, money, and segregation to name a few.  However, through all of the controversy over what will be right for the school systems people often forget to look at what is right for the children.  It should not matter whether or not a student went to a public or a private school as to the quality of education he or she received.  The American government needs to stop taking money from public schools and sending children to private school so that they may receive a better education.  Instead America needs to take the money, time and energy that the government is spending on fixing the voucher program, and spend it on creating public schools that can complete and equal the standards of the public schools.

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