Why vouchers?

Published February 27, 2014

By Tom Campbell

by Tom Campbell, Executive Producer and Moderator, NC SPIN, February 27, 2014.

Momma always said you can learn more listening than you can speaking, so now that a judge has called a temporary halt to North Carolina’s school voucher program let’s spend time in listening to both sides of this issue. And the best way to get information is to ask questions.

For starters, why do we need vouchers? North Carolina’s Constitution mandates a sound basic education is to be made available to every child in our state at no cost. So why would a parent choose to pay for something already provided for free? The obvious answer is the parent doesn’t believe the free education being provided is best for their child. Why not?

If North Carolina is to provide vouchers why did our legislators choose to offer them only for low-income students and not everyone? I’m told that lawmakers wanted to ensure that low-income students aren’t trapped in failing schools and have choices for better education opportunities. Voucher opponents say this was merely a carefully designed ruse, a first step, to implement school vouchers for everyone beginning with a segment of our population it would be hard to deny needed them.

Why would a low-income parent apply for a voucher? The first year of the program allows for 1,700 vouchers to be provided to low-income students. We’re told more than 4,000 have applied before the deadline. From what I’ve heard tuition at most private schools is more than the 4,200 dollars our voucher program would provide and it is more than likely parents would have to come up with more cash out of pocket. Why would a family supposedly struggling to make ends meet choose to do this?

I’m listening to the opponents and trying to understand why there is such heated disgust with the concept.

Why is it unconstitutional to spend public money for private schools? Doesn’t North Carolina already do so? We give tuition tax credits to students attending private colleges, saying it relieves our public universities from needing more classroom and dormitory space. Why is a public school voucher any different?

And why do voucher opponents claim it will raise the cost of education when the voucher is only 4,200 dollars and North Carolina’s average per pupil expenditure is more than 8,600 per year? Won’t the schools would be saving 4,400 dollars per year per child.

And please explain why this voucher program is racist or discriminatory against Blacks and poor people, as the NAACP recently charged.

Why are voucher opponents so worried that a large number of students will flee public schools, leaving them with children with behavioral, learning or physical disabilities - students who would be harder and more expensive to educate? Isn’t that an admission that public schools are not doing a good job educating our children?

I am trying to be open-minded and listen to both sides of this debate but quite honestly have not formed a strong opinion. Why not fix the schools instead of giving money to kids to attend private schools? Isn’t my first responsibility as a parent to advocate for my child to get the best education opportunities possible? Why would any parent want to leave excellent schools?

February 27, 2014 at 9:12 am
Richard Bunce says:

It is critical that all parents have access to alternate education systems for their children given the failures of the government schools systems for decades. The majority of government schools students are not proficient at basic skills such as math and reading. Relatively high income parents including elected officials, government education bureaucrats and government school administrators/teachers already have this choice and exercise in significant numbers. The issues with the government school systems are not money related, see the Washington DC school system. They issues are systemic and directly related to the government education industrial complex iron grip on the government schools systems developed over the last several decades. The opposition to vouchers or any other alternative education system options for parents and their children is loss of control of government education funds by the government education industrial complex. It is time parents and employers come together and end this near monopoly on the nations children.

March 3, 2014 at 12:39 pm
wafranklin says:

This trend of thought is not new. Mao used it to have people smelt iron and steel in their back yards. We have people to teach. They teach children. The thought that random deviations to accepted conventions based on religion, ideology and other specious logic is just that, foolish. So, you would destroy public education for a minority of "true believers", would you not? No standards, no regular curricula, etc. Smells like fundamentalist Teabilly to me.

March 3, 2014 at 2:14 pm
NC SPIN says:


Where did all this stuff come from? I asked some honest questions and wanted some honest discussion. Trying to confuse this issue with Mao or religion or fundamentalists is the problem with public policy discussions today. You are trying to re-frame this honest inquiry into your own political agenda. I'm sorry for that.

March 3, 2014 at 2:29 pm
Richard Bunce says:

Just as the 10% plus of relatively wealthy parents placing their children in alternative education systems and the government school they would have attended lost their per pupil funding for those students did not destroy the government education system so to would providing relatively poor parents the same alternate education system opportunity for their chidlren for the same cost hit to the government school will still not destroy the government education system. What is destroying the government education system is decades of government school student majorities who are not proficient at basic skills. Nice that you are a big fan of for profit multinational steel corporations though...

February 27, 2014 at 10:24 pm
wafranklin says:

Simply, vouchers lead to: (1) paying tax money for private religious schools which are then unaccountable to the taxpayers via the government; (2) supporting efforts and methods to destroy public schools (which may in fact be your goal); (3) this is a major political ploy to privatize all schools as profit machines by predators. Schools teach a common program and curricula, ensuring some semblance of socialization among classes, groups, tribes etc. of people - building a common community. When not screwed with, it has done it well. You certainly mark yourself, falling for "fair and balanced" crap - like your mentors in Locke.

March 2, 2014 at 1:28 pm
Richard Bunce says:

Your comment of course ignores one very critical element of K-12 vouchers... the PARENTS of the CHILDREN decide what is the best education system for THEIR CHILDREN. The majority of students in government school systems are not proficient at basic skills... I guess you will not be truly at your common community until all students are in government school systems and all are not proficient at basic skills.

March 3, 2014 at 10:41 am
Rip Arrowood says:

Where is the evidence that "the majority of students in government schools are not proficient at basic skills"?

March 3, 2014 at 11:33 am
Richard Bunce says:

Asked and answered several times on this forum... go actually read the recent (and not so recent) assessment results of the national and state government school systems.

March 3, 2014 at 7:24 pm
Rip Arrowood says:

Your own John Hood, on this site, claims NC is right in the middle of the country in education.

We should strive for better. But that's hardly saying students in government schools are hardly proficient...

March 3, 2014 at 11:19 pm
Richard Bunce says:

Not a rebuke of my comment at all... looking at the national data all government school systems, all controlled by the government education industrial complex, are failing systems with the majority of students not proficient at basic skills. For those parents who can afford alternative education systems for their children including government education bureaucrats, elected officials, and government school administrators/teachers there is a way out of the failed government school systems. Why do you oppose this opportunity for the parents who pay for the government school systems but cannot afford to also pay for an alternative school system for their children and see their children trapped in these failed schools?

March 3, 2014 at 11:21 pm
Richard Bunce says:

Table 2: 2012-13 School Performance Results

Cohort Assessment Percent Proficient

Grade 3 Reading EOG 45.2

Grade 4 Reading EOG 43.7

Grade 5 Reading EOG 39.5

Grade 6 Reading EOG 46.4

Grade 7 Reading EOG 47.8

Grade 8 Reading EOG 41.0

Grade 3 Mathematics EOG 46.8

Grade 4 Mathematics EOG 47.6

Grade 5 Mathematics EOG 47.7

Grade 6 Mathematics EOG 38.9

Grade 7 Mathematics EOG 38.5

Grade 8 Mathematics EOG 34.2

Grade 5 Science 45.4

Grade 8 Science 59.1

EOC English II 51.1

EOC Math I 42.6

EOC Biology 45.5

March 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm
Rip Arrowood says:

That's some pretty serious cherry picking out of this entire report....http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/docs/accountability/executivesummary11072013.pdf

March 5, 2014 at 11:48 am
Richard Bunce says:

Cherry picking? Entire grades statewide not proficient at basic skills is cherry picking? Thank you for showcasing the problem with the government education industrial complex and the government education systems they have created... total inability to recognize their utter failure.

March 21, 2014 at 10:32 pm
Martha Cherry says:

You've posted results from the 2012-13 tests. Are you aware that the bar was raised for that test? "Proficiency" on the new EOG is a bit arbitrary at this time. The state legislature even recognized this when they added an achievement level in order to correct the situation created by their short-sighted Read to Achieve law. You cannot raise the standards and expect students to meet or exceed them immediately. It will take some time for the scores to rise, but they WILL. North Carolina has raised the bar before, and over time, student scores improved. You can't put someone on a diet, weigh them the next day, and tell them they've failed because they haven't lost any weight. It takes time to reach a goal!

Do you know what an EOG test looks like? What do you consider BASIC reading skills? Have you looked at sample EOG reading tests? They are not exactly tests of BASIC reading skills.

What about the 2011-2012 results? You did not post those. They look very different from the scores you posted.

You ARE cherry picking!

March 22, 2014 at 11:03 am
Richard Bunce says:

You are whistling through the graveyard... failing government school systems are not a result of any recent assessment changes. Ask parents, employers, post secondary educators.

February 28, 2014 at 12:42 pm
Mike Armstrong says:

The decline in the quality of public education cannot be fully understood unless it is studied in context with the "greater picture " Liberals, socialists and progressives, never attracting more than twenty percent of the voting population, adopted a more successful strategy of capturing the media, public education and finally, pop culture. With control of these areas, their political victories came much faster and in greater number.

Disparity of income, one of their political tools, is all about buying votes and, not so much, about helping people. Disparity of income is most visible among the inner-city poor and the best path out of poverty would be a good education. yet, thos e that whine the loudest about this disparity move Heaven and Earth to deny such families the opportunity at alternative education.

democrats are correct, it is "getting the nose of the camel into the tent" And, why not? A little competition is just what Momma said our underperforming schools need. The real question is, " how long will hypocrisy reign