Currie & Casper
Viewpoint: School Vouchers
by David Currie
The current platform of the Texas Republican Party says the following:
School Choice- We encourage the governor and the Texas Legislature to enact child-centered school funding options which fund the student, not schools or districts, to allow maximum freedom of choice in public, private, or parochial education for all children.
If this is what is meant by “vouchers,” then I think supporting them is both (and I won’t beat around the bush) Un-American and Un-Christian. Now that I’ve shocked you, I will explain.
Eighty-four percent of children in this country attend public schools. Slightly more than 60 percent (over 3 million) of our 5 million Texas public school students are identified as poor. One of the truly remarkable things about America is our public education system. Our public education system is one of the things that “makes America America.”
Anything we do to weaken public education in America works to weaken America and our future. We need to be strengthening public schools, not weakening them, and vouchers will weaken our public schools.
If vouchers are used to enable students to attend private religious schools with the aid of public tax dollars, then that is a clear violation of the First Amendment. Our Constitution clearly says that government public money is not to be used to promote religion, anyone’s particular religion.
The Bible clearly says we are to “love our neighbor” and be “salt and light” in our culture. We are not loving our neighbor when we weaken our public schools. We are not being salt and light when we abandon our public schools to those who do not believe in our savior.
I am proud to be a part of a new organization, Pastors for Texas Children, www.pastorsfortexaschildren.com. We are religious leaders who feel strongly that it is our Christian responsibility to advocate for Texans to support our public education system and the 5 million Texas school children who attend our public schools. This basic investment is the key to a child’s future economic mobility, the financial stability of Texas families, and the state’s long-term economic prosperity.
We must prioritize the adequate funding of our institutions of public education for the benefit of all Texans. It is simply wrong for people to push privatization schemes that take the form of public school vouchers, for non-profit virtual schools and corporate chain charter schools that do not serve all students equally.
There are few things I feel as strongly about as the importance of public education and that I, as a Christian and Texan/American, must support public education. Those advocating privatization have attacked the public school system and falsely labeled neighborhood schools as failures. Diverting public education money for private purposes is simply wrong. We need to embrace our public schools, fund them adequately, show a new respect for the teaching profession, and work together in our community to strengthen our public schools, not weaken them with privatization schemes.
Vouchers are a bad idea. Supporting our public schools ought to be at least ONE thing that Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and persons of all faiths can rally around together.
David R. Currie is the new Tom Green Democratic Chair. David is a native of Paint Rock in Concho County where family came in 1879, and continues to ranch there as well as in the Christoval area where he and his wife Loretta live. Married for over 30 years, they have a blended family of 5 children and 10 grandchildren.
He is a graduate of Howard Payne University and also has masters and doctors degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminiary in Fort Worth where he did his doctoral work on agricultural policy and the Bible and received his degree in Christian Ethics.
He is a former pastor, staff member of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission which focuses on ethical issues and religious liberty and retired Executive Director of Texas Baptist Committed. He was also sheep and goat specialist with the Texas Department of Agriculture in the 80's when Jim Hightower was Ag. Commissioner.
David is the author of two books, On the Way and Songs in the Desert as well as hundreds of articles that can be found at www.txbc.org.
He is currently the president of Cornerstone Builders and Angelo Granite Worx, and managing partner of Stonewall Ranches development company. He has served three terms as president of the San Angelo Home Builders Association, served on the Better Business Bureau board, as a board member of Howard Payne University, The Interfaith Alliance, The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and is current Vice-chair of the San Angelo Adult Literacy Council. He and Loretta are members of Southland Baptist Church.
by Ken Casper
The first goal of any school system should be literacy. Yet today, in too many public schools, that most basic skill is not being achieved. In places like Chicago, high school attendees—I hesitate to call them students—are graduated, even though they can barely write their names. Or I should say print, since cursive writing is being eliminated in many school districts.
So we have a problem. To solve it, let’s review basic principles.
Parents are responsible for the upbringing of their children, including their education. Responsibility means having control, and having control implies choice. We have four educational options in this country: public, private and charter schools, as well as home schooling. Charter schools and home schooling are relatively new developments, the outgrowth of profound dissatisfaction with the public school system. Essentially, the four alternatives differ only in the manner and scope of presentation, since the contents of each of them must be accredited by state education boards.
Private schools are expensive, but the quality of education is superior. Home schooling is expensive, as well, both in the added out-of-pocket cost of purchasing approved lesson materials and the time it takes to work individually with each child. Charter schools are state funded, but they enjoy greater independence in content and presentation than ordinary public schools. They are also more successful in achieving educational goals.
In each of these three cases, if you aren’t satisfied with the education your child is receiving, you can change schools or lesson programs.
Since most parents can’t afford the added time or expense of private schools or homeschooling, and the number of charter schools is limited, the vast majority of students go to public schools. They have been around for a long time. How have they done? Not well. Over the last forty years costs have increased about 200% while the quality of the end product has markedly deteriorated, yet parents are forced to send their kids to the assigned school, even if it is dangerous, fails to meet academic standards, and involves long and often perilous bussing.
The big losers, as always, have been the poorest, most vulnerable members of society, those who would stand to benefit most from improved opportunities afforded by a competent education.
The solution is obvious: give parents a voucher for the value of the cost per student in the district in which they live and allow them to use it where they’ll get the biggest bang for the buck. Nationally that averages $1,350 per student per month, about twice the tuition of a private school!
I can’t think of a single valid reason for rejecting vouchers. The demand for teachers will not markedly change, since the number of students attending school will remain the same. Good teachers are always in demand. Freedom of choice and competition, the lubricants of improvement, will force failing schools to improve their performance or go out of business, as they should. The void will be filled with better schools.
The winners will be the children. Their parents will be able to take them out of failing, dangerous environments and place them in schools where they have real opportunities to learn and grow. Faculty and staff will be held accountable for their students’ progress, because vouchers are also ballots. Perhaps that’s why home schooling and voucher programs are rejected by the National Education Association, the Texas Education Agency, teachers unions, and administration bureaucracies.
By the middle of the 20th Century, we had virtually wiped out illiteracy in this country, yet in the last thirty years, coincidental with the establishment and growth of the U.S. Department of Education, functional illiteracy has grown. Huge gobs of tax dollars have been wasted on federally mandated school programs that clearly don’t work, proving the adage that the more you subsidize failure, the more of it you’ll get. City, county, state and federal governments have continued to subsidize a failing education system, and we have more of it now than anyone could have imagined a hundred years ago.
It’s time for parents to take back control. The government, whether state, federal or local, does not own our children. Tomorrow belongs to them. Our sacred duty is to give them the tools today to deal with the challenges they’ll encounter. That preparation begins with literacy.
Ken Casper was born and raised in New York City a long time ago. He graduated from Fordham University with a degree in Russian Studies and shortly thereafter went into the Air Force. He received Intelligence training at Goodfellow AFB, was assigned to Japan, Vietnam and Germany, after which he returned once more to Goodfellow. Here he met and married his wife, Mary. Three months later he was reassigned to Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada.
After another seven years of assignments as a civilian to Camp Pendleton in California and Luke AFB in Arizona, he, his wife and daughter came back to San Angelo, where he headed an Intelligence training branch at Goodfellow. He was subsequently placed in charge of procuring $200M of new technology for the Training Center's new computer-based training system.
He retired from the Air Force Reserve as a Colonel in 1993 and from the Civil Service at Goodfellow in 1997. In 1998 he published his first Harlequin Superromance, A Man Called Jesse. Twenty-four romances followed, including Upstairs at Miss Hattie's and six NASCAR novels. During those years he became good friends with Dr. Pres Darby. In 2011, shortly before Pres's death from ALS, they published a joint novel, Mankillers, a Civil War thriller. Since then, Ken has published three Jason Crow mysteries set in West Texas.
A staunch conservative, Ken was the second president of the San Angelo TEA Party, 2010-2011, and has remained active in local politics ever since.