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THE PARENTAL CHOICE IN EDUCATION INITIATIVE (PCEI): 20 QUESTIONS

V4.7, 4/3/92. Prepared By Russ Howard, Director of Research, ExCEL  

The below is a reference for Take The Offensive, Part X

Q: What is PCEI? A: Under PCEI, if a parent sends a child to private school, the state provides at least a $2,600 tuition scholarship (or "voucher"): half the $5,200 it would cost the taxpayer if the child went to a government school. Parents would direct taxpayer money to schools that best educate their kids. When tuition is less than $2600, the savings can be used for later grades or college.

Q: Will PCEI decrease funding for government school students? A: No. Just the opposite. Students leaving government schools take only $2,600 with them, leaving $2,600 behind. Part of that latter $2,600 stays in the district, increasing per-student funding for the remaining kids. Part goes back to the state, saving money for taxpayers.

Q: Will PCEI hurt public education? A: No. It will improve. Private schools have to convince you to spend your money. Government schools don't have to compete for your money because they already have it. Empowering parents with the financial ability to choose their school will make government schools compete and offer a better product. Moreover, "public education" occurs in both public and private schools -- wherever taxpayer money helps educate students. Education through vouchers is public education.

Q: Are government schools really that bad off? A: Many, but not all. Ask the experts: In Los Angeles, G-school teachers are twice as likely to send their kids to private schools as other parents. Our G-school dropout rate is about 30%. (Little Hoover Commission) Even our better schools have fallen behind other industrialized and many 3rd world nations. Tests rank our kids far behind the kids they compete with for jobs in the world economy. (DOE)

Q: Is school choice a risky experiment? A: No. It's a proven, superior system. Many countries (e.g., Australia, Holland, Denmark) publicly fund private school students. In America, Vermont has done it for 100 years, and the GI Bill has helped millions of Veterans attend schools of their choice.

Q: Why not spend more on our "underfunded" government schools? A: We spend more per pupil than almost every other industrialized country; nearly twice as much as Japan or Germany. California government schoolteachers average over $40,000 a year, 42% more than in 1960 after inflation, 49% more than the average California worker. Spending per student is up 136%. The problem isn't lack of money, it's waste and lack of competition and accountability. United Teachers of Los Angeles found that only 36% of school funding trickles down past the bureaucracy to L.A. classrooms.

Q: Is the scholarship too small for poor parents? A: No. In 1988 the nationwide average private school tuition was $1,915; 43% of elementary students paid less than $1000. 65% of high schoolers paid under $2,500. $2,600 is adequate for a quality private school education. Even in California, the average tuition was less than $2,500. (US DOE)

Q: Does PCEI discriminate against the poor and middle class? A: No. For the first time, it gives middle class & poor parents the financial ability to choose what is now only readily available to the wealthy.

Q: Will parents of the best students opt out of government schools, leaving problem kids behind? A: No, just the opposite: Parents whose kids do well in government schools are likely to keep them there. It's the parents of problem kids who gain the most by opting out of "one-size-fits-all" government schools.

Q: Will private schools reject problem kids and minorities? A: Not if they have $2,600 to spend. New schools will specialize to meet their unique needs. Plus: taxpayer savings will enable the state to augment their scholarships, and PCEI forbids racial discrimination by scholarship-redeeming schools.

Q: PCEI does not make schools take handicapped kids. Will government schools be stuck with them? A: No. Both government & private schools are eager to take handicapped kids, who get generous state funding which parents can petition to use at private schools. G-schools usually oppose that option so they can keep the funding. Besides, not every G-school takes every handicapped kid. Many attend specialized schools.

Q: Will PCEI lead to cult schools? A: This question reveals the government school unions' elitist contempt for the poor & middle class. California has half a million kids in private schools right now, but there is no cult school problem. The wealthy send their kids to good schools. Poor & middle class parents will also choose good schools too if given the opportunity. Also, PCEI excludes schools that teach hatred or lawbreaking.

Q: Will it fund schools that practice religious discrimination? A: No. It doesn't fund schools: it funds students. If vets can use the GI Bill at religious schools and seniors can give social security to a church, parents should be able to use vouchers at religious schools.

Q: What about safety standards? A: Current law subjects private schools to detailed earthquake standards (CA Ed Code 39160-76) and other safety stan­dards. More importantly, parents won't tolerate unsafe schools unless they have no choice. That's why California government school students are far more likely to be beaten, stabbed, or shot than injured in earthquakes (65,000 violent crimes and 8,500 cases of weapons possession in 87-88 -- CAL DOE). Public school standards don't yield much safety. Parental choice does. When was the last time you heard of a private school student shooting up his school?

Q: Are private schools free from government school education standards?

A: Yes! Standards should be judged on their results. Standards written by bureaucrats often frustrate teachers and stifle innovation with red tape. Private school standards get superior results at half the cost. That is why PCEI enables government schools to become scholarship-redeeming schools that compete under private school standards. It also authorizes statewide performance testing in public and scholarship-redeeming schools.

Q: Are private schools' true costs higher than tuition after accounting for volunteers and gifts? A: In some cases. But government schools get gifts too, and their costs are also understated.

Q: Will PCEI lead to intrusive government regulation of private schools?

A: No. For new regulations, PCEI requires a 3/4 vote in the legislature or (on local issues) a 2/3 vote of the issuing body and a majority vote of the qualified electors. The government must be able to prove in court that the law is essential to safety or education, does not unduly impede schools or parents, and will not injure or suppress schools. Private schools will have more protection from intrusive state regulation than they have today.

Q: What about credentials? A: Credentials don't ensure quality, but they do keep quality minds from teaching. Current credential requirements would bar Albert Einstein from teaching high school physics in California.

Q: Will it hurt government schoolteachers? A: No. The current system demoralizes teachers by not rewarding excellence. Choice helps them by restoring safety (violent students can be expelled), cutting red tape, encouraging innovation, shifting money from bureaucracy to teaching, creating jobs, and promoting systems that reward excellence.

Q: What about government schools' duty to instill "common values"? A: Government schools rarely teach values, and when they do, they're often the kind of "values" that parents fear (e.g., condom distribution, "sex" ed classes that bombard kids as young as 11 with extremely graphic sexual content and encourage them to be "openminded" about "exploring their sexuality"). Diversity of values is healthy for American democracy; Government-enforced conformity is dangerous.

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 QUOTES TO REMEMBER
Without freedom there will be no firearms among the people; without firearms among the people there will not long be freedom. Certainly there are examples of countries where the people remain relatively free after the people have been disarmed, but there are no examples of a totalitarian state being created or existing where the people have personal arms. — Neal Knox

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