November 08, 2004

Vouchers... A cruel game being played on Black Parents..


Vouchers under the No Child Left behind Act (NCLBA) have been offered to Black Parents as a solution to the structural problems with the Public School system. “No Child Left Behind rests on the basic premise that giving poor children access to better schools will translate into a better education” Poll after poll taking on the support for vouchers amongst Black parents have come back with results that say Black parents support vouchers in high numbers. Other polls have shown that depending on how the question is asked will determine the answer given. The support for vouchers by Black parents and the opposition to vouchers expressed by Black leadership has led those inside and outside the Black Community that supports vouchers to proclaim Black leadership is out of touch with the will of the people. I agree with the majority of Black Leadership; I am opposed to vouchers as a means to address the structural problems with the public school system. I believe vouchers are being offered in lieu of fixing the real problem.

To better articulate my opposition to vouchers I am going to use the story of Rayola Victoria Carwell, a young Black girl from Chicago, who mother hit the voucher lottery. Her children were selected to be amongst the 1,097 students (out of the 19,000 students that applied) to receive a voucher that would enable them to transfer to better schools under the NCLBA. Rayola story reads like the story of many Black children, she is from a single parent home, live in a section eight home with her mother, her siblings and her grandmother. Rayola mother works and struggles with parenting three children and definitely could use some support from the absent father of her children. Rayola attended several schools near her south side home prior to her mom hitting the voucher lottery. After being selected to be amongst the 1,097 children allowed to transfer to a better school, Rayola and her siblings are enrolled in a School on the other side of town.

Before I go any further I think we all should take note of the fact that only 1,097 children out of 19,000 were selected to receive a voucher to attend a better school. This leaves approximately 17, 900 students who also applied for vouchers stuck back in the broken down, under achieving schools with under qualified teachers running the schools and no plan in place to do anything about it. More than 270,000 children attend underachieving schools in the city of Chicago. “Only 38 of the system's 600 schools are open to transfers” This along should make those who support vouchers second guess their support of this program. Vouchers does not address the structural problems in the public school system, they do nothing more than pluck a thousand plus children out of their under achieving school and stick them in a school across town without addressing the problems the lucky children who hit the voucher lottery are escaping. This is happening all over the country and the vast majority of our children are stuck in these horrible schools.

When Rayola arrived at her new school on the other side of town, she was behind academically but after a few months of tutoring and one on one attention from the teacher Rayola had caught up to her classmates. Rayola and her siblings were absent or late to school many times for various reasons which led to Rayola falling behind in her class work. But the one thing that sticks out the most is Rayola was able to catch up to the other children in spite of all the problems at home and having failed a grade at her last school and this is the point I want to drive home.

Rayola story is the story of most economic disadvantaged Black children, she is very bright and if given the opportunity to attend good schools with good teachers there is no doubt she would succeed in school in spite of the problems at home. However, in order for Rayola to have a chance at success, her mother must first hit the voucher lottery, get her children in a better school with the voucher and then have the means to get her children to that school everyday regardless of where the school is located. There is no doubt in my mind that this could be done with no problem by hundreds of economic disadvantaged Black parents, however Rayola mom was not one of them. So Rayola ends up back in an under achieving school because her mom can not get her and her siblings to school everyday or on time. Some will read this three part story and say the mother is to blame for all that is going wrong and the father of the children need to be in jail.

What will be ignored is the fact that; if Rayola community schools were up to par, Rayola and the majority of those other 19,000 children that applied for vouchers would have a better chance at receiving a quality education and would not have to travel across town or vie for entrance into the very few schools accepting voucher lottery winners.

Black Leadership is correct to oppose vouchers; vouchers gives a false sense of hope to Black parents wherein the majority of their children will never benefit from vouchers. It is a cruel game being played on Black parents, when they are asked will they support a program that takes children out of poor performing schools and put them in a better school, when the reality is the vast majority of children in under achieving schools will never get a voucher. There are not enough good schools to absorb all the children from the poor performing schools. The only solution to the problem with the public school system is to fix it and not patronize Black men and women with vouchers. One of a few ways to start this process is by juxtaposing poor performing schools with the schools that are performing as they should from a financial standpoint, school structure standpoint and quality of teacher recruited to teach in these schools. Black men and women should reject vouchers as a substitute for fixing what is wrong with the public school system; vouchers do not qualify as a band-aid for the bleeding that is going in the public school system.


At 11:58 AM, Blogger Noah TA said...

To be honest, I have never studied the voucher issue. What I do know is that you cannot have a goal to fix the educational system in America while at the same time having goals to cut reduce government spending and government’s involvement in the lives of people. Therefore, what you have are proponents of small government implementing plans that are the cheapest approach. Notice that I did not use the phrase “least expensive”, but rather, “the cheapest”.

I think that Vouchers is a euphemism for busing, in my opinion. No doubt, like busing, you have flow of black kids to predominately white schools…but this time without public funds and transportation to get the kids from source to destination. The other side of the coin is the race issue, just as it was in busing. There are certain whites who equate or correlate poor performance with black enrollment percentages. Thus, they see blacks coming into their school district in large numbers as a detriment to their kids which offsets the benefit to black kids and that is not an option for them. Hence, you are likely to get plenty of resistance to having an “open” school in the voucher system and hence this is likely also why the voucher lottery is so small.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Faheem said...

You are correct Noah, it is indeed a new form of bussing. With the voucher the parents receive for their children comes transportation money to get the children to the school. Same thing Bussing did.

At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Black Leadership should do something about the poor public school system. I cannot speak for the Chicago system but I live near Washington, DC and its school system is a national disgrace.

Congress forced an experimental voucher program onto the DC school system and had similar percentages as Chicago's (percent accepted, etc.). What was outrageous was the fact that a large number of children who attended private schools previous to the voucher program applied and were accepted into the program. This doesn’t resolve the problem of the failing school system because these students have been removed.

Recently, the superintendent of the school system resigned (a nearly annual event). The mayor, city council and school system considered hiring his replacement for nearly $600,000. The candidate turned down the position for another one paying $350,000 (Miami. FL). Why? Because DC’s school system had so many problems that the candidate decided the extra quarter of million dollars wasn’t worth the hassle. They needed up hiring one at a ‘savings’ for $350K.

The DC school system has approximately 50% of its schools open to transfer. Graduation rates are below the national average. School supplies for the current year typically don’t arrive until December. Newpaper articles report teachers are using their own money to purchase toilet paper for the bathrooms. DC spends more per pupil than any school system in the country.

This is not a black/white issue here in DC. The mayor, city council and the school system are all run by blacks. This is a leadership issue.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Noah TA said...

I do not think that it is a leadership issue in the case of places like D.C and Detroit, which are mostly black. The issue is a structural issue. Working within the constructs of the "System" is not working for black people. Yet, to work outside the constructs of the system will bring the system down upon black people and those who try differnt methods. Until blacks are allowed a certain amount of autonomy from the "system" we will continued to be held down by it.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Faheem said...

D.C. is a whole different issue. The city Leadership in D.C. has been neutered and has no power what’s so ever to do anything. After the people of D.C. re-elected Marion Barry the city leadership was stripped of most of their power. D.C. is not run the same way all other cities are run.

Secondly, the issue is always about race even when there is all Black leadership. They can not get the funding the little white schools get and D.C. is about to spend a few million on a baseball team. If D.C. would have moved to uses city money for Schools like they are going to do for the Baseball team, the opposition they would have faced would have been insurmountable.

At 1:58 PM, Blogger EG said...

I do not undertand "The city Leadership in D.C. has been neutered and has no power what’s so ever to do anything. After the people of D.C. re-elected Marion Barry the city leadership was stripped of most of their power. D.C. is not run the same way all other cities are run."

What way are other cities run that is different than DC? Yes, when Barry was in office, Congress held the city finances with tight reins. He's no longer the mayor and the city is running a surplus and has A+ bond rating. Congress controls very little of them these days.

Then you stated: "They can not get the funding the little white schools get and D.C. is about to spend a few million on a baseball team. If D.C. would have moved to uses city money for Schools like they are going to do for the Baseball team, the opposition they would have faced would have been insurmountable."

Please check the amount per pupil spend in the DC school system against other school systems in the US. The school system doesn't spend the money appropriately. The new superintendent went to a high school who didn't have the class schedules ready for September (they supposedly had all summer to resolve this but didn't), found utter chaos and fired the principal and two others on the spot. The city was shocked and delighted.

Second, the city isn't using current tax money for the Baseball Stadium (not the Team, it will be privately owned). They are considering a new excise tax on DC Businesses that gross over $3 million a year. No current tax money will be used for the Stadium.

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Faheem you are correct current voucher plans are bullshit (experimental plans that are compromises with teacher unions etc).

The push is for real vouchers. If a state spends $10,000 a year per student. Then each student gets a $10,000 a year voucher to go to any school.

That is what people are talking about when they mean vouchers. that would cause a structural change in all schools public and private. They would compete for students thus raising the quality of all schools.

You can Noah would be able to build your Africa school because you would be able to get 20 student thus
$200,000 to run your school. Or a million if you get 100 students.

That is what vouchers is about.

At 2:12 PM, Blogger EG said...

"I do not think that it is a leadership issue in the case of places like D.C and Detroit, which are mostly black. The issue is a structural issue. Working within the constructs of the "System" is not working for black people. Yet, to work outside the constructs of the system will bring the system down upon black people and those who try differnt methods. Until blacks are allowed a certain amount of autonomy from the "system" we will continued to be held down by it."

What should they do that they cannot do today? They have allowed folks who disagreed with the school system/policy to create charter schools and the DC School system must provide the charter schools with funding and building space. They created many alternative school programs within the school system.

I contend that the school system is structured to return minimal returns.

1. DC school teachers are the lowest paid in the area (compared to the Maryland and Virginia school systems that surround DC).
2. Many DC school buildings are crumbling and have been closed down for months due to fire code violations.
3. The DC school has a major glut of buildings within the system that they maintain. They have not closed schools because the school board cannot decide which schools to close.
4. The DC school system has not been able to give a count of the students enrolled in the system for years. But they do know the number is smaller than in years earlier.

Understand, I agree that vouchers are a band-aid at best. But we need to recognize where the problems are and correct them.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Faheem said...

EG, D.C. is apparantly doing better than the whole state of California. Bonds out here are damn near junk bonds. I was not aware that D.C. leadership regained control; that is good to know. I am sure there are many cities drowned in bureaucracy that is preventing money from getting where it is needed most.

Teacher pay is as important as money spent per pupil and in the places wher you find both are what they should be, you will rarely see the problems chronicled in your comments about broken down buildings and so on. I understand your arguements and agree for the most part with them; you are definetly more versed on the inner workings of D.C. than I am.

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Faheem said...

Scott, you are fooling yourself. The kind of vouchers you are describing have been tried as well. The problem was that many private schools were costing more than what the voucher would cover thus the parents were stuck trying to come up with two to five thousand more to cover the tuition not to mention the books and uniforms those schools required. The solution is not to pluck our best and brightest students out and stick them in private schools, the solution is to fix the school they are already in and vouchers do not address that problem.

However, if you want to expand the plan you described, there is still not enough good schools to cover the students in the poor performing schools and just so happen most of these schools are in our community or other economic disadvantaged communites. Shuffling children is not going to save enough of our children from the pit falls of the public school system and rescuing a few thousand is not sufficient and every Black man and woman should reject such a plan.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger EG said...

Another issue with vouchers is that schools can elect out of the program. The Friends School in DC (where Hiliary Clinton and the Gore children went) does not participate in the DC voucher program.

My understanding is that primarily Catholic and other religious schools participate in voucher programs. This brings up the issue of separation of church and state.

At 4:36 PM, Blogger Faheem said...

Indeed EG, not to mention that Private schools can pick and choose who they accept without given an explanation other than they are a private school, thus simply given a child a voucher does not gurantee them admittance into all private schools open to voucher students. One of the many things private schools face is having to make public their school business being that they are accepting public funds. I believe if a private school is accepting tax payers money they should not have the ability to hide behind the cloth of being private anymore. In the end this program becomes a program taking our best and brightest minds and intergrating them into their system. If you read the story about "Rayola" when she transfered to the new school under the voucher program, she decided to use her middle name "Victoria" at the new school because "Rayola" sounded too "Black" but when she went back to the all Black school she was back to "Rayola" and was more comfortable in that setting.

The intent of Vouchers is definetly good I believe, but the end does not justify the means and our children suffer because of it.

At 6:52 PM, Blogger Scott said...

"Scott, you are fooling yourself. The kind of vouchers you are describing have been tried as well."

Please tell me where that has been tried. Or are you just talking out your ass as usual.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger EG said...

I cannot defend Faheem's point but there are hidden costs when a school system calculates the costs per pupil. For example, public school system's costs for land/building are zero (maintenance is not). Building insurance is covered by the city/county. Personnel costs would be higher (public school salaries, health insurance, pension costs etc., spread throughout the Government and at lower rates).

Given on all those variables, the $10K per pupil won't provide a higher level of education in a private school setting, particularly if the private school doesn’t have a large donor pool.

At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have data that, done properly, vouchers CAN work. Check it out:

You might also ask yourself why Democrats in DC continue to herald the virtues of the public school system - but none of them send their OWN children to public school.

Let the children of the poor have a bit of choice in where they go, too.

Peg K

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Noah TA said...

No one is addressing the fact that many peole put their kids in private schools for racial and class reasons. I had a person tell me that the would not send their kids to private school for a better education...but rather, to keep them away from certain negative influences.

As with forced busing...parents pulled their children out of schools when large number of blacks came in. What you will find in many cities that are majority white, such as Minneapolis, is that the public school system is majority minority. Thus, if blacks and the poor start to filter into schools....there will be a loss of white our upper class students.

This falls in line with an essay I wrote some time ago about integration being destructice when and if one cannot reproduce what existed prior to integration. I disagree with the idea of chasing around white folks and needing to integrate with white folks to create value and worth...because they will always run away as they did with busing. Others will simply will be closed to vouchers. Also, unless voucher go cross district, in cities like Detroit, they are simply a waste.

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Who fucking cares if white people leave the fucking schools. The point is you can create your own schools and hold them accountable. Which you can do if you control school funding which is what you would have if you had vouchers.

At 11:33 PM, Blogger Faheem said...

Scott, I am asking you again to refrain from cussing on Black Introspection, you do not cuss this way on your own Blog and I will be damn if you do it here. From this point on, any unnecessary cussing done in your comments will cause those comments to be deleted. I understand that you are an emotional creature but if you expect us to think you are intelligent than you need to articulate your thoughts like an intelligent man.

Now to answer your question, check out the link Peg posted and you will see that the Milwaukee program is one wherein the vouchers were given in the form of a dollar amount and if the parents enrolled their children in a school that was higher than the amount provided by the voucher, they had to pay the difference. This program is not unique to Milwaukee; apparently you are not as familiar with the voucher programs as you think you are.

Now as far as the Milwaukee program, there is no doubt that a voucher program done over a 13 year period will produce some good results. My contention with vouchers has not been nor is it that they do not work to the benefit of the students that received them. My contention is vouchers do not address the structural problem with the public school system. The success of vouchers is confirmed by comparing the voucher recipients to the students in the public school system, what sense does that make? The students at the private school were doing better that the public school students prior to the voucher students arriving, thus common sense would tell us that all students enrolling in these schools will perform near the same level because they all are receiving the same training. But one thing I hope you Negro-Cons remember the next time you talk this personal responsibility crap is that these voucher children still have the same parents, still live in the same community and the only thing that has changed is the school they attend.

To further look at the Milwaukee Program that started with 341 students in 1990 and in 2004 have 13, 268 students enrolled. How many Black minds have been destroyed at these sub par public schools in the last 13 years since this program was instituted. I do not know the number of students in the Milwaukee public school system but I would imagine that it is upwards of 100,000. Is it acceptable to put the hope of these many children in a program that can only support 13,268? Is there a plan for those students left in the public school system? As Public schools in Milwaukee continue to loose students to the voucher program thus having money taken away from their schools, they have to get rid of teachers and cut back on staff; this is a documented fact.

At 6:43 AM, Blogger Scott said...

Pegs article:
The reference:
"The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) is the nation’s oldest program giving low-income families vouchers of up to $5,882 to enroll their children in non-religious and religious private schools."
"Wisconsin’s public schools budgeted to spend an average of $9,221 per student for the 2001-02 school year, a 3.6% increase over actual 2000-01 spending. "

Now please explain to me how $5,882 = $9,221

And Peg article also said the public schools ahve improved at the same time.

"[10] Jay P. Greene and Greg Forster, Rising to the Challenge: The Effect of School Choice on Public Schools in Milwaukee and San Antonio. 27 Civic Bulletin (Manhattan Institute) 1 (October 2002). This article is also available at:"

BTW: you still need to get over your white flight issues. Did all your white friends move away when you were little ?

At 7:15 AM, Blogger Noah TA said...

You should refrain from attempts at humor because you are not funny. Anyway, one needs to define what it is that makes a school a “good school”. Most people will say that it is the quality of teachers and materials for learning, as well as safety. It just so happens that white higher levels of income and wealth can therefore fund and attract a higher quality of teachers and material. Thus, if and when vouchers manifest in shipping black kids from black communities and schools to white communities and school, it is destined to fail because whites will move their kids somewhere else and the good teacher and materials will follow suit. To me it’s just like the false promise of busing. In the long run, white flight resulted in blacks simply being bused from one black school to another as white move further out to exurbia.

At 7:50 AM, Blogger EG said...

Another definition of a good school is parent involvement. There are examples throughout the US where parents have pressed school officials to provide high quality teachers and supplies. When budgets are tight, parents combine their resources and have raffles, car washes, etc. to obtain the monies for school equipment and supplies.

Given the current economic climate in the US, lower and even middle class people find it hard to find work, keep their job with high levels of outsourcing, come home and spend quality time with their children and check on their child's educational institution. It is much easier to take a prepared meal to the microwave, grab the TV remote and forget the problems before them. People are forced to work more than one job and single parent households outnumber two parent households in the black community.

Relative to school vouchers, Milwaukee has taken about 15% of the public school students and placed them in private school. Yet there is no basis of study of the 85% that remained behind in the public school system. The report Peg mentioned that ‘competition’ caused the public school system to become better. How? How was this measured? What other external forces caused the school system to improve? For example, if the city cracked down on gang violence during the same period of the vouchers, the anti-gang policy will have a direct influence on the public school scores by removing the ‘troubled students’ into programs outside of the public school. Social-Economic studies like these typically find the answers the authors wish to discover (like the percentage of support for school vouchers, it depends on the wording of the question).

At 8:13 AM, Blogger Noah TA said...

I think that the decision that separate is inherently unequal must be looked at in the reality of America. For all intents and purposes, there is separation by race and class in this nation; because this is the goal of those with means…separation. Those people who want separation are the once with the best resources. Those who want integration are the one with the least resources so that that they will not be a competitive disadvantage do to race and class. However, this nation have proven that those with means will always attempt to isolate and separate themselves and their children from those perceived to be “inferior”, economically, morally and behaviorally to them.

In light of this, what needs to be done is way to artificially make separate actually equal, even if that requires doubling or tripling the funding in Poor performing districts until a strategy is figured out that works to produce comparable results.

At 9:31 AM, Blogger EG said...

"...even if that requires doubling or tripling the funding in Poor performing districts..."

Unfortunately, this solution requires those with the best resources to give to those with the least resources. Yet there is no reason to believe this will be done.

Those with the best resources have no desire, requirement or need to give their less fortunate brethren.

Also, the desire to learn must be instilled within the individual child for any meaningful change to occur. The old adage about leading the horse to water applies in this case. The best teachers and supplies cannot force a child to learn and make use of the equipment surrounding him/her. I do not wish to sound like Bill Cosby but his recent public comments have merit.

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Faheem said...

Scott you are playing games now. If what you are suggesting was possible, it would already be done. Maybe if you dig a little deeper you will see why the amount of the voucher is not the amount spent per pupil. Furthermore, under your plan the number of students that have received vouchers would be cut in half because the school system could not handle that amount of money being taken from it, hence students get a little over half of what per pupil spending is in that school system. Do you honestly think the $9,221 is actually used directly on each student?

Let me give you a little info Scott, the amount per pupil is broken down into several different categories starting with; Student Instruction, Administrative Services, Special education, Social and Medical Services, Food services, Student Transportation, Facility and Construction.

The amount of the voucher offered to the student is taken from the money spent on Student Instruction, Food Services, Transportation and possibly Medical Services. The money given to the school for Facilities and Construction, Administrative services and special Education is not included in the voucher because the money allocated for these things do not belong to the student, they belong to the school. The per pupil spending is broken down based on the amount of money spent on all the things I listed and then divided by the number of students in the system, this does not mean that each student actually has $9,221 spent on him or her every school year. This is why students in Milwaukee do not get $9,221 vouchers.

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Faheem said...

EG, I do not think any one here denies the importance of parental responsibility but what are you using to measure the effect of parental involvement versus the effect of bad schooling that include under qualified teachers, broken down schools etc.. The one thing you must reconcile with your parental responsibility argument is that when you take these same children and put them in a Good school they perform as the other students are performing as demonstrated in the story of Rayola. These children parents did not change, the community in which they live did not change; the only thing that changed is the school. Regardless of how good a parent one is, it does not mean that their parental skill will override the effects of their child receiving a poor education. Furthermore such an argument also inherently states that the children in the affluent schools Parents are responsible parents when we know that is not the case. Also this argument is just like the argument written about sometime ago on this Blog wherein the point was made that some people believe Black folk must accept that we have to work harder that any one else for the same results. Such thinking sustains the structural racist system in America as infallible and Black Introspection do not accept such thinking.

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Constructive Feedback said...


At 10:36 AM, Blogger Faheem said...

What about them? I am all for Charter Schools, and I am a supporter of the KIPP program, none of which contradict anything I have written. We have had this discussion before on TBWT as well as on this blog when you tried to say if Jessie Jackson opposed charter schools which I do not know to be the truth but apparantly you do, that we oppose them as well. I am all for single gender schools as well, I am for school uniforms and plenty of other things but none of that goes against anything I have written.


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