Yes To School Vouchers

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - July 26, 2006

Congressional Republicans, some under great criticism, have advanced socially based legislation this session: same-sex marriage ban and outlawing the burning of the American flag. I believe these are worthy debates, and the legal preservation of certain traditions is necessary. But there is another proposal working its way through Capitol Hill that deserves more attention than it’s getting now.

I am a fervent supporter of school vouchers. Congress is considering a $100 million school voucher program allotting low-income parents of students attending struggling public schools money to send their children to private school. As much as this is an admirable proposal, I believe all parents should have the option of school vouchers when considering education options for their children.

Under the current proposal, parents could receive as much as $4,000 per student per year to attend either a private school or another public school out of their district. Parents would be eligible to receive an additional $3,000 per student per year for extra tutoring. If a family has four children attending school, this translates to a possible $28,000 per year that parents could use in providing the best education for their children.

Of course, there are detractors of the school voucher system. Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association (teachers union), says, “Voucher programs rob public school students of scarce resources. No matter what politicians call them, vouchers threaten the basic right of every child to attend a quality public school.”

It’s this perspective that is most troubling. Mr. Weaver’s position is the communal benefit supersedes individual choice. I believe if government mandates compulsory education, then it must provide the means and opportunity for parents to determine which path is best for their children. By mandating education and providing only the public education model, the government is demanding indoctrination rather than education.

If we’re truly interested in advancing an ideal education experience for American children, parental choice should be the standard. Money is a tool that facilitates choice. School vouchers empower parents with the ability to educate their children as they see fit, rather than having education decisions regarding their children made for them by the state.

In this election year, we will hear a great deal about education in Hawaii being “The No. 1 Priority.” Remember when former Gov. Ben Cayetano was billed as the “Education Governor”? What do we have to show for it?

The only time there was a concerted effort to systematically change public education for the better was during the early days of the Lingle administration. The initiative to de-centralize the Department of Education, while delivering resources and authority to the local level, was shot down by Democrats fueled by Weaver-esque myopia and a desire to capitalize on “doing something” during an election year. “The Reinventing Education Act of 2004,” has proven to be more show than dough.

Where is the brave politician who will reject the status-quo pseudo-socialistic hysteria promulgated by public school officials here and around the nation?

All parents should demand the opportunity to choose which educational path their children will take. I urge all voters to support school voucher programs and assist those candidate who favor individual choice over governmental mandates.

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