by Beverly Ingle, retired educator
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As I sit down to watch tonight’s presidential debate, I can’t help but think about the candidates’ positions on public education, more specifically vouchers, and the real impact of using public tax dollars to pay for private education.
Vouchers have been an issue off and on in Colorado for the last couple of decades. Recently, a local school board in Douglas County passed a motion for a voucher program disguised as a “scholarship” program.
The good news: The Colorado Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional because the program violated a provision in the state constitution barring spending public money for religious schools.
The bad news: The school district recently petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal of the case. The Douglas County plan was designed similarly to a program in Ohio that made it through a Supreme Court hurdle.
This election year, there are clear differences between the presidential candidates’ positions on vouchers. Secretary Clinton opposes vouchers and believes that public money should not be used to pay tuition at private schools.
Clinton also believes all students deserve a quality public education, regardless of their zip code. I agree. Every child needs a learning environment that helps her or him thrive.
However, Donald Trump supports vouchers and other school choice panaceas that studies show don’t work—including merit pay and unregulated charter schools.
Trump recently unveiled his education plan at a for-profit charter school, the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy. He wants to take $20 billion of existing federal funds, with states contributing an additional $120 billion, to create block grants for school choice. This is funding that public education desperately needs and could be used to ensure that the vast majority of students nationwide who attend our public schools receive a quality education.
Ironically, Trump either didn’t research the charter school where he made his announcement or, if he did, he just didn’t care that it had received an “F” from the Ohio Department of Education for not meeting state standards.
When educators, the trained professionals in the classroom, are allowed to focus on their students and the instruction they need, students thrive. When we are given reasonable class sizes and adequate resources for learning, students thrive. When communities invest in their neighborhood schools rather than divvy up resources among vouchers schemes and other ill-conceived attempts to privatize public education, communities thrive.
We need leaders who understand that education is not a business and our students are not products. That’s why it’s important to watch tonight’s debate and learn as much as you can about the two candidates seeking our nation’s highest elected office and, in November, make an informed decision and cast your vote for the candidate with the best plan for public education. Our students’ futures depend on it.