The NY Times is running an article on the upcoming challenge to Florida’s controversial voucher system for student education. There seems to be a point that’s been overlooked.
The article highlights the story of one school, Edison High, which had been a really crap school by all accounts. The voucher system allowed students to “escape”, by transferring to a different school (including private schools that offer low-cost education – i.e. religious schools). This has had the effect of lowering class sizes from a student-teacher ratio of about 30:1 to only 22:1. At the same time, Edison has had a lot of teachers replaced by a dynamic new principal.
So… a “failing” school was fixed by lowering class sizes and replacing ineffective teachers. You know, that sounds like a recipe for fixing all failing schools!
An argument can be made for voucher-based education (which allows a student to transfer out of the public school system to the private sector, with some taxpayer subsidy that is usually less than the cost of education under the public system). However, it should be around choice. Using vouchers, or any other “voluntary transfer” system, to allow students to “escape” a bad school misses the point: you still need to fix the bad school. If students should be allowed to “escape” bad schools, why not just shut bad schools down? That way, they can all escape, right?