This morning, the editors of the Washington Post once again highlighted the need to give disadvantaged families the power to choose the right school for their children:
The Supreme Court will hear arguments today about the use of public money for the private schooling of children with special needs. It’s interesting to note what’s not at issue: namely, that when a public school system is unable to provide an appropriate education, it is obligated to pay the costs of private school. Too bad poor children don’t have that unassailable right; if they did, there would be no controversy about the District program that gives vouchers to low-income children to attend private schools.
The Post provided more information about the Supreme Court case in an article yesterday. Their editorial argues that the case demonstrates how public funds following children to private schools that best meet students needs is common practice in American education:
To hear critics of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program tell it, the use of public money for private schooling is as unprecedented as it is undesirable. But, as education think tank founder Andrew J. Rotherham recently wrote on his Eduwonk blog, “Public funds and private schools are plenty entangled now and the idea of bright lines is a rhetorical fiction.” In addition to the billions of dollars spent annually on private school tuitions for students with disabilities, he noted, private schools get public money for books, technology, teacher training and Title I services. As long as the money is seen as benefiting the child, it is deemed a proper, even desirable, use of public dollars…
…Public schools should be pressed to do a better job for students with disabilities and students without. But there are schools in Washington where statistics show that failure is almost guaranteed. If a school system can’t educate a child — whether because of acute special needs or its own historical failings — why should that child not have options for a “free appropriate public education”?
The Post’s editorial raises an implicit question: why are opponents of school choice so hostile to vouchers when they seem to have no problem with other programs that let parents and students choose the best school for their children?. We raised a similar question in a past article that considered when liberals love school vouchers.