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Sunday, June 05, 2011

How to improve schools and save money at the same time!

You might think it odd that I would post twice on Sunday,  but actually my first post today was written almost entirely on Saturday.   We had a severe storm and tornado warning and,  just as I was finishing my post, violent winds and driving rain arrived with the sounds of nearby thunder and the midday sky turned green.   Green skies are never a good sign.   We grabbed the dogs and found refuge in the downstairs laundry room as the power sputtered, sputtered and died.   We then had no power for about 18 hours.

Once the storms had passed, we lit candles and battery-powered lights and found a battery-powered radio.   I finished a book by Mark Cahill that had been sitting on my end table and had a long conversation with my wife and two of our sons.    We prayed together and then my wife headed to bed early.   I finished the book before hitting the sack.   It was odd to be in such a dark and quiet state as I retired.   All candles were blown out and all lights extinguished.   Power was out all around the area so it was quiet and almost pitch black within.   

I had decided to let the evidence against evolution rest for the weekend and make a couple of posts concerning the government and the economy.   So here is that second post:

Taxpayers in Texas have an opportunity to save $2 billion over the next two years by allowing parents to move their children from public schools to private schools, using a savings grant of up to $5,143 to pay for tuition.

The state legislature is considering an amendment to an appropriations bill that would create a Taxpayers' Savings Grants (TSG) program. Here’s how it would work:
  • Parents can transfer their child from a public school to a private school and use a Taxpayer Savings Grant to help pay the tuition. The maximum grant would be $5,143 or the cost of tuition, whichever is less.
  • Research by The Heartland Institute shows approximately 350,000 students would be enrolled in private schools under the program. That’s about 6 percent of the number of students currently enrolled in the state’s public schools.
  • Because the maximum grant is equal to 60 percent of what the state currently spends per student on maintenance and operations, the state will save $2 billion over the next two years.
  • All parents with children currently enrolled in a Texas public school are eligible to participate. In addition, students enrolling in kindergarten and first grade for the first time are eligible.
  • The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts will administer the Taxpayer Savings Grants Program. The Comptroller will adopt rules regarding application and reimbursement as well as rules to prevent fraud and abuse.

Resources from Texans for Voluntary Taxpayer Savings:
  • How the Funding Works,” a one-page summary and graphic showing how the program saves taxpayers money.
  • Coalition letter,” a letter endorsing TSG signed by the leaders of more than 20 civic groups in Texas.
  • Texans only:Write Your Lawmaker,” write a letter to your state representative and someone from Texans for Voluntary Taxpayer Savings will print and deliver your letter by hand to your representative’s Capitol office.

Resources from The Heartland Institute:
  • Budget Impact of the Texas Taxpayers' Savings Grant Program,” by John Merrifield, Ph.D., and Joseph L. Bast. This Policy Brief copublished by the E.G. West Institute for Effective Schooling and The Heartland Institute documents $2 billion in savings over the first two years of the program.

Americans want access to school vouchers so that they can choose between available schools for their children or perhaps choose to homeschool them rather than being forced to send them to the one closest government school in the area.   Homeschooling is growing in popularity because parents are concerned about the quality of government schools and the questionable morality of government "sex education" as a for instance.    The Texas plan is brilliant!   Offer vouchers that are worth less than the cost of teaching children in the government schools.   Increase the competition for students between public, private and homeschooling options while saving tax dollars.   

A second reason this is a brilliant plan is because some schools are downright dangerous for students to attend.   Schools dominated by gangs are dangerous for teachers and students alike.   Parents who care but have lower incomes will benefit most from vouchers because it will give them an opportunity to give their children a fighting chance at avoiding the gangs and actually getting an education.   Do you really think there are many inner-city schools in Detroit and Gary and Chicago that are worth attending?   

When parents are given a chance to choose their schools, this also presents opportunities to the best teachers.   The teachers who really want an opportunity to educate their students need an environment where the kids can actually learn.   The tired old warhorses in the inner-city schools who just want to get in the last few years and retire can keep on keeping on.  But the young and energetic new college graduates will find more choices open up for them as parents get more choices.    In what way is this not a win-win for both parents and students?   Isn't this a great way to reduce schooling costs for states?   Isn't this a great opportunity for inner-city kids to have a shot at actually learning in a safe environment as long as the parents care? 


Hawkeye® said...

Sounds good to me!

(:D) Best regards...

cavalier973 said...

can homeschoolers take advantage of this opportunity?

Chaos Engineer said...

This is a promising idea but I see a couple of potential problems.

Will $5,143 cover the tuition at a decent private school? If not, then the rich people are getting a nice refund on the tuition that they'd be paying anyway, and the poor people are just getting mocking coupons that they can't afford to use.

I don't know what tuition is like in Texas. But my gut feeling is that $5,143 isn't enough, and this is another Republican scheme to trick poor people into subsidizing rich people, like the Ryan Medicare Plot that's been in the news lately. This is easily fixed; we just need to raise the value of the coupon to $20,000/year or so; rich people in Texas are undertaxed, so that's a good source for the extra funding.

The second problem is educational standards. I know that a lot of private schools were created purely because the public schools got desegregated. If people want to spend their own money to teach their kids bigotry and homophobia, then there's nothing we can do to stop them, but we can't afford to let government money be wasted on that.

So we need to make sure there are strict standards for accreditation. At a minimum, I'd expect a clear non-discrimination and pro-diversity policy, comprehensive sex education (with none of those discredited "abstinence-only" classes), adherence to state science standards (modified by the appropriate Supreme Court rulings), and of course no religious indoctrination. Schools that aren't willing to meet the standards could still exist, but of course they wouldn't qualify for government-issued vouchers.

AmericanVet said...

As long as home schoolers (whose curriculum is checked and approved by the way) can use the vouchers, we have no problems. Even the poor families have to cough up extra books and tuition fees at public schools, this way they can shop around to see what is available and what they can afford.

When there is a marketplace situation rather than a monopoly, there is a competition between vendors to provide best services at best costs. It is very likely that private schools would combine the vouchers with income-specific grants or scholarships to make room for the less fortunate families to get out of broken school systems like Chicago's mess.

As to the race card, let's not play that please. Bad form!

Finally, the school systems used to be completely run by the locals. Usually a church group would pitch in and take part but sometimes not. Either way the schools were eventually taken over by the government and government cannot do much of anything efficiently besides make war and spend money. I would prefer that there was a voucher system in place everywhere and each individual school would compete for students based on cost and quality. Get the Feds out of our local schools and the State out of our local schools and let school boards and local government be in charge - we'd see a big improvement in quality then!