Strickland should keep school vouchers

Matt White

If Ohio’s school children were grading Gov. Ted Strickland’s budget, they would probably give it something between a “D” and an “F.”

In his State of the State address, Strickland said, “So as we ask for sacrifice, we must demonstrate responsibility. Wastefulness and giveaways can no longer be tolerated. That’s why my budget eliminates the Ed Choice voucher program.”

But Ohio’s schoolchildren and their parents know something our governor does not – that the Ed Choice program isn’t a waste, but an essential part of Ohio’s future.

Rather than forcing students to remain in schools that aren’t making the grade, the Ed Choice program provides vouchers (government money similar to a scholarship) for students to go to the school of their choice that is performing well. This means students can pursue an education that is public or private, focused on general education or specialized skills, and make something of themselves. This is the alternative to Strickland’s vision, in which students are locked into classrooms that provide little or no opportunity.

Strickland is flat wrong when he says the Ed Choice program is wasteful. So long as Ohio is in the business of providing an education to its citizens, it must choose to get the best return possible for its money. Ohio taxpayers should not be forced to pay for an inferior education from schools that aren’t cutting it; parents must have the freedom to move their children to schools that will provide a quality education. By eliminating the Ed Choice program, Strickand is subsidizing the dismal results of failing schools and is allowing class differences to continue by keeping poor and minority children locked into failing schools.

Even if the Ed Choice program only helped equalize the level of education for Ohio’s school children (that is, bring up the education of those who are lacking, but not hold back those who are excelling), it would be worth keeping around. But, there’s another benefit to this program – localizing accountability in how schools are run.

Under President George Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation, suburban school districts have little or no trouble meeting federal education goals. Meanwhile, inner-city schools have little or no chance to meet those same standards, mostly because of institutionalized problems. School vouchers, however, eliminate the need for federal standards because they provide flexibility for students to get out of bad schools and into good ones – an idea that’s far superior to waiting for bad schools to catch up.

Ultimately, school vouchers are about the freedom; the freedom to attend the school of an individual’s (and his or her parent’s) choice. Eliminating the Ed Choice program is a step in the wrong direction because it empowers the government over parents, and because it wipes out an important program for making sure all children – not just those who are born in wealthy districts – are educated. An education is something that all children deserve, and it’s truly unfortunate the governor’s latest budget is stealing that opportunity from them.

Matt White is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].