Hide Your Kids! (Hide Your Money!)
If you’re reading this, it may already be too late. You may not be aware, but the school where you teach – or worse yet, that your children attend – is unsafe. The charity workers at OCPA (look up their 990s – the local mouthpiece for the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute somehow qualify as a charity) and the writers who meet the editorial standards at the Oklahoman want you to know that with a little bit of legislative maneuvering, any parent may be able to pick any school and take a voucher for their kid – just by claiming that they feel the school their child attends is unsafe.
Consider this editorial Saturday by Vicki Alger of the Independent Women’s Forum. She puts forward the idea that because schools are unsafe parents should be able to transfer their children to any other school – even a school that other parents feel is unsafe as well. She suggests:
Students shouldn’t have to wait for safer options — and state lawmakers shouldn’t wait for Congress to act. Oklahoma should consider implementing a Safety Opportunity Scholarship (SOS) program. Under an SOS program, parents with a reasonable apprehension for their children’s safety — including instances of bullying — could transfer them immediately to safer schools of their choice within or beyond their resident school districts, including public, charter, virtual or private schools.
Scholarships would match the state per-pupil funding at students’ current public schools. If parents opted to send their children to less expensive schools, the savings would revert to the state general fund — leaving more money for programs to help all schools become safer. An SOS program would fulfill No Child Left Behind’s stated goal that “All students will be educated in learning environments that are safe, drug-free, and conducive to learning.” Such a program would also have numerous advantages over the current PDS mandate.
Calling it a scholarship makes it sound tidy and benign. This latest push is nothing more than a blatant attempt to institute a voucher program in Oklahoma. Conservatives on the fringe have long wanted the option to take public money and use it in private schools. The catch is that the private schools don’t have to take your child or the state’s money. This would be nothing more than another way to write off the students with the fewest resources and smallest support systems.
During the discussion of the use of public dollars at religious schools for the LNH scholarship for special education students, proponents insisted that this was not a trial balloon for a more large-scale voucher program. Some were sincere in that insistence.
However, Saturday’s column falls on the heels of the rally led by OCPA a week before at the Capitol pushing for legislation to address parents’ concerns. If you follow any OCPA writers on Twitter (or state officials who are chummy with those writers), you know that they think all public schools are unsafe. They herald any bad news coming from a school as evidence of the entire system’s failure. They never show appreciation for the good done by the tens of thousands of professionals who spend every day in this state working with children.
To believe that this element of next year’s legislative agenda is about student safety is beyond naïve. It’s about money and privatization. It’s about tuition breaks for the parents who have already chosen private school for their children. And it’s about destroying public education as we know it.