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Letters

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Web letter by Philip Scott: Vouchers raise the bar for both private, public schools

A recent letter (“Voucher-aided schools abandon accountability,” July 24) bemoaned the “terrible news” that Indiana’s school voucher program is growing and the negatives that has for the citizens and the public school system. The primary perceived negative was the lack of state accountability for private schools. It is true that most privately held ministries or organizations hold private board meetings, yet that does not mean there is a lack of accountability. Board members always answer to someone. They too can be voted out of office if they do a poor job. They also hold legal duties and can be sued for breaching those duties.

Yes, the public can attend public school board meetings, but beyond competing with national teacher unions and other deep-pocket groups of interest in school board elections, there is little the individual parent can do in the state’s department of education to affect real change. The greatest way any parent can require accountability is by deciding where their student will attend school. The public system only allows this if you have the means to buy a new house in a new district or simply fork over the money to attend another public or private school. Vouchers have changed that. In fact, studies have shown that the competition for state education dollars has improved public schools as they shift their focus from bureaucratic and political to parental and student as they try to draw students back to their schools. Schools are beholden to whoever holds the purse strings. Up until recently public officials and bureaucrats solely held those strings. Now that this power is shared by parents as well, public schools have a better perspective of whom they serve – a perspective private schools have never had the option of forgetting or their doors would close. By giving parents the choice, we also improve our public schools for students who continue to stay in them.

Further, under the voucher program private schools are also directly accountable to the government both on a school-wide basis and on an individual student basis. School-wide they are required to be accredited by the state or another recognized accrediting body the state approves. They must submit financial reports to the state showing how their money is spent and ensuring disbursements were made according to the state’s system. Voucher students must be administered Indiana’s ISTEP+ test and make those results public along with graduation rates. Additionally, the school cannot be rated a “D” or “F” for two consecutive years on the ISTEP+ test or their eligibility will be pulled. How many public schools do you know lose their state funding if they fail students for two years consecutively? Lastly, the school must also grant full access to the state to review curriculum materials and observe classroom instruction.

Thankfully parents are not stuck with private or public schools. Parents have a choice to decide which educational system is the most advantageous to their child’s needs and thereby make the entire system better while ensuring the highest quality.

PHILIP SCOTT

Assistant director for legal legislative issues

Association of Christian Schools International

Colorado Springs, Colo.

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