What’s the one industry in which the customer is less valued than the employee? Education. As I’ve observed the debate about how to fix public schools, the one idea that is most vilified is the idea of vouchers, of being allowed to use your own tax money to send your child to a school outside the district in which you live.
The idea of vouchers, and many similar programs with varying names, is that a child shouldn’t be relegated to a poorly performing school simply because of where they live. In this archaic system, the area of town in which one lives dictates the schools to which one can send their children. Children are locked inside a grid of the government’s making.
This system disproportionately impacts poor and minority students, whose parents cannot afford to live in more affluent areas. Children of wealthier parents aren’t affected because their parents can afford to send them to the best schools, whether they be private, charter, Catholic, Christian, or public. But children living in poverty are often trapped in failing schools in which they’re not being given the tools to advance to their full potential.
In comes school choice. Politicians on both sides of the aisle–mostly conservatives–have initiated school choice programs in their states, so that children can escape failing schools, and attend the school of their parents’ choosing. Seems like a good idea, right? Kind of a no-brainier. Poor and minority kids get to go to better schools. Not so, argues the opposition.
The chief argument used by anti-voucher advocates is that if kids leave failing schools, taking their parents’ tax dollars to another district, teachers will lose their jobs. That’s the first thing out of their mouths. Schools will lose funding, and have to lay people off. Rather than celebrating the fact that children could be receiving a better education, thereby offering them a world of opportunities they couldn’t have otherwise had, they’re upset that they’ll lose money.
That should be a red flag right there. I’m fully aware of the maladies of our education system. I’m aware that teachers, on the whole, are undervalued. I’m aware that the structure of public education needs to be radically altered–broken down, and rebuilt from the ground up—if we are to fix systemic problems. I’m aware it sucks to be laid off. But here’s the thing: Schools aren’t designed for the benefit of the teachers or administrators, they are expressly designed for the education of children.
Anti-voucher advocates are always quick to jump on school choice proponents, but are much slower to offer solutions aside from “More money! Nom nom nom!” Those who stand against school choice are not looking to the best interest of your child, they are looking out for themselves. Keep children in these crappy schools so I can keep my job. Again, red flag.
It reminds me of the outrage displayed by the taxicab syndicate when Uber and Lyft challenged the status quo by turning the private transportation industry on its head. Instead of trying to innovate themselves, the taxi syndicate tried to bring down Uber and Lyft. There’s a reason Uber and Lyft are so popular: they’re cheaper, faster, and easier. But the syndicate wasn’t looking out for the customer, rather, they sought to secure their own monopoly.
That fight is reflective of the anti-school choice folks, except education is a much more serious issue than getting a ride to the airport. To anti-school choicers, kids are less valuable than teachers and administrators—which is insane.
We need to fix the public education system, but let’s not pretend that anti-voucher proponents are looking out for anything other than their bottom line.