There is a longstanding debate surrounding the idea of public education in general and how it should be regulated. As it stands, parents have the choice between sending their children to public school or sending their children to private school, with the caveat that if they choose the latter option, they must pay for both.
Essentially, citizens in most states are required to fund public education through taxes in addition to the private school tuition that they may choose to pay. In some states, opponents of standardized education are attempting to change this through the use of school vouchers.
The idea behind the school voucher system is essentially that parents receive a voucher for the tax money that would have funded a public school, and this voucher can be used to pay for a child to attend a public school as regularly planned, or a private institution of the parent’s choosing.
A system like this would not compel parents to use public institutions and would create a level of competition between school systems that would ultimately benefit the students. This applies free market principles on benefiting the consumer to education in America.
Critics of the voucher system are quick to point out that while the idea of greater choice in schools can be appealing to parents, this would almost certainly endanger the public school system as it currently exists.
If given the choice between public schools and private schools, many parents will choose to have their children attend a private institution, leaving children destined for public schools in institutions that could be defunded and closed due to low enrollment. It is also important to point out that there is very little data to suggest that incentivizing performance in schools produces better results than other methods of teaching.
This is not the only controversy surrounding the use of education vouchers to purchase private education.
In many states that currently offer a voucher system, private schools are held to different educational standards than public schools, and these loopholes are being used to teach creationism and other religious ideas in the classroom.
In a recent report, it was noted that in nine states that currently use a school voucher system, 310 schools were documented teaching creationism in the classroom. It is further observed that there are undoubtedly many, yet unidentified, private academies that are teaching creationism in the classroom and the ones identified thus far are those that are simply brazen enough to advertise the fact on their websites.
There is no question that using taxpayer funding to the tune of millions of dollars to fund institutions that directly endorse specific religions is a controversial issue, but the question of whether or not it goes far enough to violate the constitution still remains to be seen.
Regardless, it is clear that this lapse in educational standards is being used in an exploitative way to teach subject matter that would not otherwise be allowed in a public institution. How much discretion should be given to the parents when it comes to standardized education?
The struggle between government intervention and personal choice is a debate that has surfaced many times. It is an issue that the American people will most likely be asked to address soon, as voucher systems become more popular and controversial topics are injected into school curriculum.