May 30, 2011
School vouchers are back. Ever since the 2010 elections, state legislatures in a number of states have introduced bills that would take money out of public schools to educate students in private and religious schools.
School vouchers are an old idea first pushed in the 1950s, and they have long ago been proven useless for improving education. In all the districts where school vouchers were implemented, like Milwaukee and Cleveland, educational achievement has gone down, not up. So if the idea is being pushed again now, it’s NOT because those pushing it believe it will improve public education.
No – this is part of a coordinated attack by right-wing billionaires on the very existence of public schools. Some want the “free market” to rule the schools; some want government money to pay for religious education. But all of them see it as a waste for public money to be used to provide a free, public education for all children.
One of the biggest players in this group is the DeVos family of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Richard DeVos’ father was a founder of Amway; his wife, Betsy Prince DeVos, is the sister of Erik Prince, the founder of the Blackwater mercenary contractor. This family made tons of money off of government contracts to carry out atrocities in Afghanistan, Iraq and who knows where else – while they denounce government involvement in public education!
The DeVoses have poured money into several organizations they control: “All Children Matter,” “American Federation for Children,” and “Alliance for School Choice.” Together they work with other foundations across the country, funded by other wealthy families – the Koch, Scaife and Walton families – to push for laws allowing public money to pay tuition to private, religious schools.
All these wealthy families dress this up as school choice. But their true purpose is to completely dismantle the public schools altogether. Many have signed a Public Proclamation to Separate School and State, which declares a “commitment to end involvement by local, state, and federal government from education.”
If these right-wing billionaires were to succeed in getting rid of public schools, what would education look like for working-class families? Sure, parents could choose good private schools – if they had $20,000 per student per year to spend. Or, they could send their children to religious schools, to receive an education lacking a systematic scientific understanding of the world. Or, they would be forced to home-school their children – to educate their children themselves. Home-schooling limits children only to what their parents themselves already know – which, even in the best of circumstances, is extremely limited.
Working people fought for free public education long ago, in the hopes that their children could also receive an education. Even with all the problems of public education in a society divided by wealth, it is much better than no education at all.
Now these billionaire slimebags want to take it all away, leaving generations of working children with nothing.