Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

February 3, 2014

ACLU notes opposition to Vouchers

Filed under: ACLU,Vouchers — millerlf @ 5:03 pm

Bad Ideas and Principles During “School Choice Week”

By Steven Waddy, Legislative Assistant, ACLU

Last week, there was a lot of emphasis on income inequality, social mobility, and class concerns, but not all of the attention came from President Obama and his State of the Union message. It was also “School Choice Week,” and proponents of taxpayer-funded vouchers for students to pay for private and religious schools seized the opportunity to claim that vouchers will solve these challenging societal issues. However, when “school choice” means vouchers, what it really offers is discrimination and unaccountability.

Recent polling by Phi Delta Kappa and the Gallup Organization found that 70% of the public, the highest number in the 20 year history of the poll, oppose private school vouchers. The reasons why are clear when parents and taxpayers look at the reality behind the veil of good intentions. To understand the perils of public funds going to private schools, we can simply look to the fact that these private schools take taxpayer dollars and then can decide to exclude students based on sex, religion, academic achievement, sexual orientation, and even economic status. Not only that, but voucher programs also discriminate against students with disabilities and are mismanaged.

And what about academics? Voucher schools are often low-performing. Voucher programs don’t improve reading and math achievement, and students interested in careers in the STEM fields could be at a significant disadvantage as many voucher schools reject evolution and teach creationism.

Yet, those who want vouchers continue to promote these misguided policies. Last week, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) introduced the CHOICE Act, a bill that would authorize a range of bad ideas, including creating new federally funded vouchers for students with disabilities (even though students with disabilities often reject or drop out of voucher programs) and expanding the deeply troubled Washington, D.C., voucher program. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), introduced the Scholarship for Kids Act, which could potentially deprive $24 billion from public schools and put it into the hands of private and religious schools.

How do discrimination and miseducation address income inequality? They don’t. Legislators should be ending voucher programs, not expanding them.

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November 28, 2012

ACLU 8th Annual “Youth Social Justice Forum” Gives Voice to MPS High School Students

Filed under: ACLU — millerlf @ 8:34 pm

On Wednesday, November 28th, I spent the day talking with high school students at the ACLU’s 8th “Youth Social Justice Forum.” Attended by over 400 high school students, subjects included-

  • police oversight
  • racism
  • gay rights
  • student rights
  • bullying
  • voting
  • MPS

In a workshop on the Y.E.S. “Student Bill of Rights” discussion was lively with both praise and criticism of MPS schools and classrooms.

Many students spoke of good teachers that care about them and go the extra mile to help them succeed. At the same time there was a theme describing some teachers that was universally agreed on by students. One MPS student, whom I asked to write out his views, said-

“I’m a student that takes pride in my education at school and everywhere else. So I have a great interest in anyone who wants to teach me. Throughout my entire high school career I have noticed educators that are not teaching students to the best of their ability. I call them ‘textbook teachers.’ These are teachers that rely on textbooks to do their job for them. They say ‘read these pages, answer these questions.’ They just give us book work.”

It became clear to me through the course of the discussion that students want teachers to work hard at teaching all students, whatever their learning style. They want teachers to “know them as person.” They “want and expect better.”

Students felt that some teachers are already there but all teachers need to be on board.

There was universal criticism of cafeteria food.

To get a picture of a day of great activities, view the following pdf:

ACLU Youth Conference Handbook

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