The Devil is in the Details: Or, Why I Haven't Yet Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Vouchers
25 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2003
Date Written: February 27, 2003
The one good thing about having Zelman v. Simmons-Harris behind us (and the fact that the Blaine Amendment questions have yet to catch the public's attention) is that now we can talk about the issues that are central in the minds of the principal stakeholders in the school voucher debate: the parents of children in urban public schools. They want to talk about the circumstances under which vouchers have the potential to provide good educational choices, and they want to discuss whether voucher plans are being set up so that they are likely to produce those benefits.
In the first section of this essay, I discuss the seemingly inconsistent data on African American attitudes towards school vouchers and offer an explanation that reconciles those results. In the second and third sections I review the systemic reasons that urban public schools in the United States too often fail to improve the life chances of their students and explain what school voucher programs can and cannot do to address those systemic issues. I conclude that although private and parochial school vouchers may improve our education system in marginal ways, the truly revolutionary potential of vouchers lies in public school voucher plans that open predominantly middle class suburban public schools to urban children of color.
Keywords: School vouchers, Education, Desegration, Race
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