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Private School Vouchers
Proposals to use private school vouchers, a marketplace strategy, as a mechanism by which to improve the general quality of public education have produced a lively debate. Frequently, that debate has degenerated into a disagreement about whether public schools are as good as private schools or whether a given private school is better than a certain neighborhood public school.
Other issues raised in these discussions include the appropriate use of public funds, the role of competition in improving public education, and the right of parents to choose a school for their children. Although these issues are of interest, they are not the fundamental questions which must be raised about the future of public schools in a democracy.
Two Core Issues
In their rush to the marketplace, the proponents of private school choice supported by public funds have chosen to ignore two core issues. First, the advocates of private school choice studiously avoid any discussion of the relationship between public schools and the common or public good in a democracy. As an example, the Governor of Wisconsin asserts that "any school that serves the public is a public school" and should therefore receive public funds through a voucher system. There is no recognition in this proposal of the distinct and unique purpose of public education in serving the public good. This rhetorical sleight-of-hand does not mean that a private school of choice becomes a public school i...