Darrell Allison, head of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, is a nice fellow and a true believer in his cause. Unfortunately, his cause is giving taxpayer money to parents to apply toward private schools. The cause won an unfortunate victory during an unfortunate legislative session this year when the Republicans in control did all sorts of slashing and burning to government in general and, while they were at it, diminished public education.
One blow was passing “opportunity scholarships,” which allow parents of disadvantaged children to get $4,200 a year (limited to a total of $10 million for 2014-15) to apply toward private school. Advocates say many parents believe their children aren’t getting what they need in public schools and deserve a chance to find something that works. But, in fact, public schools do a remarkable job for a broad cross-range of children and include many programs that speak to special needs.
Anyone who has priced private schools knows that $4,200 won’t cover all expenses in many of the better schools. This was a legislative maneuver with a broader goal of expanding the voucher program eventually to all families. Targeting the disadvantaged will, those pushing the idea believe, soften up the issue for expansion later. The “movement” reflects the anger some GOP lawmakers feel toward public education because some teachers have attacked the cuts that lawmakers made to education.
Republican lawmakers, many of them anyway, want to teach teachers a lesson. But giving public money to private schools will drain the already-strained public coffers and damage the system on which so many families rely, and from which so many have benefited.