From the Orlando Sentinel:
Voucher students leaping ahead at private schools
PENSACOLA -- Most of Florida's first voucher pupils have progressed more than one grade level on a standardized test for each of the four years they have been in the program, Roman Catholic school officials say.
Only two of 34 voucher pupils at Catholic schools have failed to meet that goal on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.
Yes, they are religious schools. However, as noted later in the article:
Of the pupils still in the program, two are at a Montessori school and 34 are enrolled at four Catholic schools.
There are simply few alternatives to public schools in Pensacola, and most of them are parochial schools. There are only five private secular schools in the area that were eligible for vouchers, and ultimately, only five private schools in the county agreed to participate (the four Catholic schools and a single Montessori school).
Escambia County School District officials estimate they are losing more than $3 million in state funding because of the voucher programs.
I find that hard to believe. That comes out to over $88,000 per student enrolled in the program, a program which provides a $3400 voucher for each pupil. Perhaps the county school officials graduated from public schools, and have trouble with simple math.
A Tallahassee judge has ruled that spending public money on religious schools violates the Florida Constitution, but that decision is on appeal.
Not surprising, considering how the educational establishment is terrified of vouchers. However, I suspect that the program will stand up in court, as have the voucher programs in Milwaukee and in Cleveland. The most significant difference in the programs is the potential scope; the Florida program is STATEWIDE, rather than confined to inner-city schools.
Their constitutionality can be equated to scholarships for college, which are not limited to state-run institutions. Why should primary education be any different?
Cassandra Galloway obtained a voucher for her son, Jonathan, in 1999 because he couldn't read, although he had B's and C's on his report card. He is now 14 and in the eighth grade at Sacred Heart School.
"He was on a kindergarten level," Galloway said. "He's still not on grade level in reading and spelling, but he gets better every day."
Jonathan is exactly the type of student for which voucher programs were designed. He has no learning disabilities, and his mother is apparently engaged enough to realize that her son wasn't learning, despite his report cards. Getting him out of a public school that was not providing him with an education was the only solution for him, and it is likely his mother could not afford to send him to a private school on her income.
Another parent, Jamie Cleveland, said she doesn't blame public-school teachers for difficulties that her daughter, Shamaria Williams, now 14, had before going to Sacred Heart on a voucher. They were overwhelmed with entire classrooms of academically and developmentally lagging pupils and under pressure to pass the FCAT while being labeled failing, Cleveland said.
"I just didn't want my daughter to be part of that," she said.
Since the school her daughter was attending was under an edict to improve or face some staffing changes, it is likely she was correct that there was a good deal of pressure on the staff. It is interesting, however, that Williams does not make the connection between teachers and "entire classrooms of academically and developmentally lagging pupils". in any case, Shamiria is in an environment that is conducive to learning, as opposed to the public school she was previously attending. (Note that one of the two schools that all the voucher students had previously attended was closed, partially in response to the vouchers and the spotlight shone on Escambia County.)
UPDATE30 December 2003Doug Murray at Lines in the Sand did a little research and found out where that inflated dollar figure originated; there's more than just 36 kids involved.
posted on December 24, 2003 04:34 AM
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