Letter: School Vouchers Empower Parents

To the Editor:

Steve Nelson’s column (“Real Agenda of School Choice Advocates,” Jan. 5) argues against vouchers, charter schools and school choice because they are “mechanisms for families to isolate their children in settings that share only their particular (or peculiar) view of society.” Nelson may have the best intentions but, as he admits, his comments come from his position of professional privilege in education and therefore they smack of hypocrisy. The real agenda is by those who oppose choice for reasons of self-interest.

If Nelson truly fears the effects of such isolation — inherent in exclusive schools like the Calhoun School which he heads, a bastion of today’s elite class — should he not direct his admissions office to inform all applicant families of the great disservice they will do their children by placing them in such an environment? Indeed, is it not Calhoun’s moral imperative to eliminate the ability of misguided parents to make such damaging choices, by giving the boot to well-heeled applicants, even the academically well-qualified?

Perhaps Nelson feels that unhealthy “peculiar” views are not held in the isolation of Calhoun, but only in religiously-affiliated schools. Putting aside his incorrect opinion that vouchers in such cases are unconstitutional, what does he find unhealthy about people wanting their children exposed to the positive values built on a religious, moral basis? If his problem is taxpayer funding for those schools that he finds objectionable, then surely he must also be against public funds being used for abortions that others find objectionable, and he must be opposed to laws requiring private organizations to insure for this against their moral beliefs.

It might interest Nelson to know that not all private schools charge the $31,000 in tuition he presumes. In his own backyard, The Sharon Academy’s current tuition is $13,000, in line with his figure of $12,000 for vouchers. This is less than what taxpayers in many of our local towns pay per student in our public schools. Providing vouchers for a town’s students in many cases can save money, while at the same time offering those students a higher-quality education.

There will always be a future for elite schools such as his Calhoun School, which can ride the coattails of wealthy benefactors. But vouchers will empower parents over private school administrators who dole out scholarships, and parent choice will bring competition to schools, public and private, impelling them to improve quality at affordable costs. The real agenda is held by establishment educators such as Nelson, whose protestations are likely based upon fears that such mechanisms will threaten their cozy status quo.

Tim Dreisbach

South Royalton


Steve Nelson: Real Agenda of School-Choice Advocates

Friday, January 3, 2014

Perhaps the most debated notion in elementary and secondary education these days is school choice. It is invoked constantly by so-called educational reformers and politicians (an overlapping pair), who arouse the public by asking, “Why shouldn’t everyone have the same choices the rich folks have?” Of course that’s a red herring and is neither the intent nor the result of …