NJ For Change

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Moynihan Challenge

On Wednesday I wrote a posting about blogger, Steven Hart trashing the idea of school choice using a voucher system. Steven brought up the issue in relation to the Newark mayor's race because a website published a piece in 2002 slamming Booker on a number of issues including school choice. As in 2002, Booker is again running for mayor of Newark against Sharpe James.

Steven has decided that although Newark's public schools are a disaster, a school choice voucher system would make matters worse. He gives two reasons for his conclusion. One, school choice would "undermine teachers unions -- the last truly effective labor organizations in America" and two, "the voucher cult offers nothing but a chance to turn poorly performing public schools into even more poorly performing private schools".

Steven offers no reason or facts to backup his theory that a school choice voucher system would turn lousy public schools into lousy private schools. Blogger, Michael Hill points out a great article on school choice that recounts several studies reaching the opposite conclusion - students learn significantly more in school-choice programs and school-choice parents are very satisfied.

The author of the article also offers this challenge that I pass it along to Steven and other school choice naysayers:
The first person in the nation who can send me two random assignment school-choice studies showing significant declines in either academic performance or parental satisfaction will win a steak dinner. I'll even throw in drinks and dessert - the whole nine yards. You have one month to send the studies to Mladner @goldwaterinstitute.org. Feel free to forward this to your anti-school-choice friends and invite them to play. The more the merrier.
I'll be curious to see if the last truly effective labor organization, its members and backers will be able to prove school choice leads to declines in student academic performance or parental satisfaction. If we are going to have a meaningful debate on the issue it would be nice if facts were included.

I don't know if school choice would work in districts such as Newark, but I think most people agree major changes are needed to improve student achievement in the city's schools. As we look for solutions, I think it's important for everyone to keep an open mind and to weigh the evidence before rejecting ideas on purely political grounds. The goal is to provide every child with the best educational opportunity, not to preserve the status quo for the benefit of teachers unions. At least that's why I thought we had public schools.
Blogger WjcW said...

Although I support the school vouchers because I feel the teacher's union needs competition to keep it performing to the best of its ability. I would agrue that charter schools will do better than public schools in most areas for the simple fact that enrollment in a charter school deliniates those parents who take an interest in their children's eduction. I belive that parental interest and involvement in their children's education has far more of an impact than which school or teacher a child receives. Having said that, people who do not have much interest in their child's schooling will probably not take the time to investigate and/or enroll in a charter school. By default then, charter schools have an advantage over public ones and should outperform the public schools consistently.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Sluggo said...

My daughter goes to a charter school and she has gotten a wonderful first three year head start. Three gifted teachers in a row. You're very correct to point out the advantage of the high level of involvement of the parents and that's cumulative within the class. The fact that there are more parents involved in the school in Grace's class is an advantage for Grace.

I should point out, though, that charter schools are public schools, as distinct from voucher schools. We're free of many of the restraints of regular public schools, but still answer to the state bureacracy.

11:58 AM  
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