Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Vouchers and Accountability

Those who oppose vouchers complain that there is no accountability in the voucher program, and those that are for vouchers claim that that there is.

The proposed voucher program defined by HB148 and HB174 has some accountability measures in it. But are they enough?
  1. Schools that accept vouchers can only hire teachers that have bachelor degrees, or special skills in the areas that they teach. That seems pretty weak. What constitutes a special skill? If I was a merit badge counselor, would that count? How about if I took a class in that subject in college? Who is deciding? And who is monitoring those decisions? When requirements are put into law, as this requirement was, there should be some means of holding the school accountable for those choices. And there are none.

  2. Schools that accept vouchers have certain financial and attendance requirements that they must meet. These are audited when the school first applies to be eligible for vouchers and then are rechecked every four years thereafter. Four years? That means there is no accountability during that time. Four years seems much too long to me. Some intermediate accountability measures should have been added. There are none.

Some claim that vouchers provide the ultimate accountability: parents. They claim that parents won't send their children where they don't want to spend their money, and that they will hold the schools accountable for how their money is used, and how they educate their children. There is probably some truth to that.


  1. Experiences in the Milwaukee voucher program showed that parents did not always make great choices in choosing schools, nor holding them accountable. So while it may be true that some parents will hold schools accountable, it is equally true that not all of them will.
  2. I believe that it is important for parents to hold their schools accountable for the money that they pay to them to educate their children. But with vouchers, parents will only be paying part of the private school education. There must be accountability for the portion of the cost that they are not paying. And that accountability is to the tax payers, through our state government. It is not enough to relegate accountability to the parents.
  3. Just how do parents hold private schools accountable? By taking their money elsewhere? But if there are others on their waiting list ready to replace those that leave, it isn't like just because you complain and say you are going to leave, that the school will change. They will change only if they want to, or if they can't get enough parents to pay for the way they do things. That is the only way they change. In addition, it isn't like you can just leave one private school and then go to another one down the block (like you might do if you are choosing a different gas station). You have to find another one that is close enough (doesn't do you much good if the only one you can find is in Ogden if you live in Provo). You have to apply. You have to get on the waiting list if they are full. And you may never get into that school, since they can choose whoever they want to attend their school. With that kind of process, it seems more difficult than it might seem to hold your private school accountable.

Some claim that there is no accountability in public schools. I hold my school and district accountable by attending school board meetings, knowing personally my school board member, voting for the school board, serving on the school's community council, attending parent/teacher conference, attending school district community meetings, and knowing personally the principal of each of the schools my children have attended. And the principals know us by name. If we don't like something, we complain. And more often than not, we are listened to and changes are often made.

Why do I do this? Because the education of the children is at stake. And the education of my neighbors' children. And my tax dollars are being used. So I want to hold my schools accountable. Do they always make the changes I want? Of course not. Nor will a private school.

No comments: