Can't seem to get the kids off my mind this week.
We've observed the critical importance of education and educational opportunities here in inner city Dallas over the past 12 years. Children who receive encouragement, attention, mentoring and affirmation in connection with their schooling tend to find hope and a reason to really learn and to explore.
Whenever a conversation turns to public education, someone always asks about or champions "school choice vouchers" as an option that we all should consider. I try my best to listen to folks with this opinion. Most of the time I am able to be civil at least. But, I must admit it is getting harder and harder for me.
I think that is true because in many cases, not all I am sure, but in many cases the hidden agenda is not about the impact of vouchers on educational outcomes. There is a social ideology underneath most of these discussions. I suspect the hidden agenda is about race, class, perceptions around safety and even moral norms and mores as defined and conceived by those who push vouchers.
I've noticed that one simple observation, couched in a question, seems to turn these conversations upside down.
Recently, I was having such a discussion with a school leader from another county. The subject of vouchers came up. So, I asked my question.
"How many private school desks are in your county today?"
My new friend pondered for a moment and then he replied, "Probably 500 or less."
"And, how many students in the county who need an education today?" I followed up.
"Something over 20,000," he quickly replied.
"So, given these numbers, why are we even having a conversation about vouchers?"
There is an answer to that question, but it has nothing to do with educating our children, not all of them, not even a good percentage of them.
Jeremy Gregg, Director of Development here at CDM, did a bit of research on this matter for us. You may have seen his comments on an earlier post this week. It is more good, reality-based information to keep in mind.
Check this out:http://www.dallasrelo.com/privateschools.html
Dallas has a MAXIMUM ENROLLMENT of 21,570 in the private school system.
The DISD reports here that its Elementary School Enrollment Projections Fall 2005 stand at 98,146. This does not include middle schools or high schools.
There is no question: vouchers are not a solution if the challenge is the education of all of our children.
No, vouchers take us somewhere else. They provide "solutions" to other "problems" and they answer other questions, often unspoken questions.
Can we just be honest?