Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Is the Future Dim for Public Schools?

An article published this morning in the Las Vegas Review Journal claims a recent survey shows that most people in Nevada would not send their children to public school if they were free to choose any available option.

The survey was conducted by the Nevada Policy Research Institute and the Foundation for Educational Choice. In the study, only 11 percent of Nevadans surveyed said they would choose public schools if they could choose between public schools, private schools, charter schools, and home schooling. Eleven percent! Of the rest, 48 percent would choose private schools, 23 percent charter schools, and 15 percent home schooling.

The article quotes Nevada Assembly Education Chairwoman Bonnie Parnell (D-Carson City) in defense of Nevada's public schools. She claims "the poll also provides some evidence that residents believe Nevada's public education system could be better funded." However, the survey showed that 61 percent of respondents believe the level of public education funding is "about right" or "too high." So in spite of the media and the government's repeated public brainwashing that education is not adequately funded, only 39 percent of respondents are willing to buy it any more. How much of our money do we have to give up before politicians figure out that the problem is not funding?

The article also quotes Keith Rheault, Nevada's superintendent of public instruction, who says "the support for voucher schools seen in the poll has not been demonstrated at legislative hearings on the issue."

Hmm - wonder if that might have something to do with the people who are invited to speak at and participate in legislative hearings? Certainly the teacher's unions and school organizations are going to do all they can to turn out as many people against vouchers as possible. Individuals who favor vouchers are much less likely to show up than members of unions; for one thing, many of them have children at home, which makes it difficult to attend long legislative hearings. Has the legislature actually surveyed people to determine how many would take advantage of vouchers? I doubt it - my guess is, they don't want to know how badly the public schools are perceived.

Mr. Rheault also claims, "the school choices listed by respondents also don't seem to reflect what is actually happening."

I wouldn't expect them to do that. The survey specifically asked people what they would do "if they had the freedom to choose any available option." While only about 1 percent of Nevadans currently homeschool, 15 percent say they would if they had the freedom to choose. Cost would certainly be a factor in this equation: Can the family afford to pay for curriculum? Can they afford for one parent to quit working in order to homeschool? Private schools, which were chosen by 48 percent (almost half), are not an option for many families, for the same reason. Charter schools may not be chosen by many of the 23 percent who'd like to choose them because they are simply not available in the area where the respondent lives.

Obviously more than 11 percent of Nevadans do in fact send their children to public schools; for most they don't feel they have another choice. It's unfortunate for residents of that state that they don't have a voucher system. However, it ought to make the public education system thankful; in the future they will be able to use this survey as evidence for why they shouldn't have vouchers. You see, they are right about one thing - if everyone were given vouchers, the public school system would collapse.

I wonder if it's ever occurred to the education establishment that instead of fighting so hard to force more kids into their failing schools, they ought to fix what's wrong with the schools. If the public schools were competitive with private schools, charter schools, and home schools, then handing out vouchers would not hurt them. Do you suppose they'll ever figure that out?

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