Give Parents a Choice!

by Gerri Willis

One of the most contentious issues in public education in this country, in addition to teachers unions, is school vouchers.

But to me, it's pretty straight forward. Vouchers help parents pay for private schools - giving their kids more opportunity, and in some cases, a safer choice - without putting their retirement on the line, and going broke in the process.

And I’m not alone in that thinking. Nineteen states and Washington D.C. have a voucher system or similar program, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In fact, in some cases now, these vouchers can be used for state apprenticeships and college courses.

Wisconsin is home to the nation's oldest voucher system.

With over 20,000 students participating - the average cost is about six thousand dollars. That state concentrates its dollars on lower income families. In big cities like Milwaukee, families making less than $70,000 a year are the only ones eligible.

And the use of vouchers has skyrocketed since 2010 with more than 220,000 students currently enrolled in these programs.

Since then, states like Virginia, Florida and Indiana have created or expanded their programs.

Louisiana will soon have the nation's largest voucher program once the governor signs it into law next week.

The overhaul would mean upwards of 380,000 students would be eligible for the program - up from 1,800 in 2009.

Like I said, I think the upside of these vouchers is pretty clear: an opportunity to escape poor-performing schools, but it also greatly saves taxpayer money.

Yes - for the state government - often these private school vouchers are cheaper than sending a kid to public school.

Let's look back at Louisiana. Currently the state spends about $8,500 a pupil to educate public-school students, but only about $4,500 on voucher students.

Sounds like a win-win to me.

To be fair, there are conflicting studies on the academic benefits of these vouchers, but all I know is if my kid felt safer and happier going to school... at an institution that would put him or her on a better path for the future... that's all the research I need.

Giving families options when it comes to their children's education can only help in the long run.