Monday, November 05, 2007

Metro stats, school choice, Rice #1, NYT Texas, and more

I've let my list of smaller miscellaneous items get so long, I'll have to break it into two posts this week. Here's the first half:
  • Christof does a good job analyzing H-GAC stats on Metro's HOV system and the Main St. rail, which is "carrying more people per mile (and thus per dollar invested) than any other modern light rail line in the United States. "
  • A Dallas Morning News sports columnist picks the Rockets to go all the way this year... even past the Spurs and the Mavericks.
  • Megan McArdle writes really great arguments for school choice vouchers, and absolutely devastates the con case.
  • Reed has asked me to announce a new community-driven web site:
"The goal of is to facilitate open and honest communication between consumers and local real estate professionals by integrating a number of 'Web 2.0' features including a community blog, a question and answers section (similar to Yahoo! Answers), and an interactive neighborhood map. It's free for agents to register, and since the directory is sorted by their level of participation, professionals are incentivized to provide quality insights that any user can benefit from."
Second half of the list later this week...

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At 9:29 AM, November 06, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

I find the school vouchers arguments to be pretty weak. Basically every point she makes in bold I agree with, and every point she makes in non-bold is pretty silly. Case in point:

Bold terms:
"Vouchers destroy the public school system"

"Having a public school system seems like a dumb goal to me"

OK - nevermind that our public education system is in large part responsible for our largely educated middle class and global competitiveness. Yeah, dumb goal! Um, great point!

Look at all the incredible public schools in Houston and surroundings! Most of my friends went to public school - and went on to all the best private colleges in the country - including Rice, Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, etc.

The schools in the inner cities fail because of lack of funding and social / economic / crime problems in those areas, not because there is anything fundamentally wrong with the idea of public education. If you doubt that - just compare a Sugar Land school to an inner city high school - the difference is the tax base, lack of crime, drugs, gangs, etc.

Anyway, I'm sure privatizing the school system will be high on Hillary's list of things to tackle ;).


At 1:40 PM, November 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lack of funding is the absolute most ridiculous argument for inner city schools failing!

HISD is flushed with cash. The per student expense at HISD is more than parochial schools. I would rather take a my child and the portion of the funding that the school gets and put it to a school that has a goal of teach students.

The reality is that I don't have a kid, me and many new home owners in the HISD boundary are young professional that will most likely move out of HISD territory when and if they have kids. So HISD is swimming in funds.

At 3:41 PM, November 06, 2007, Blogger Michael said...


My point, again, is that there is nothing inherently wrong with public schools, as evidenced by the excellent public schools we have.

Your point is that you are paying tax dollars for something you don't want or need, and you would rather take a portion of that and apply it to parochial school. Well, I would rather take the portion of my Iraq-war related tax dollars and flush them down the toilet, but the system does not work that way.

If you want credits for things that you do not use or do not think are useful, then it should be across the board - not just for schools - for instance, I should not have to pay as much for highways if I live close into the city and rarely use them. I should not have to pay anything for public schools if I do not have kids. I should not have to pay as much for the military if I file as an objector to the wars being fought. And a system like that is far too complex, subjective, and "big-brother"-like for the federal government to administer.

So, in theory, I support the idea of credits, but think to be fair it would need to be a comprehensive system, and I don't think that is workable. Supporting school vouchers is to me just supporting one special case of credits, the "I'm Catholic and I want to send my kids to Catholic school" special interest, which I have no reason to support.


At 8:45 AM, November 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Portion I would take is the portion spent on the child. If the child is not going to that school, then the school wouldn't not need the money.

That is the beauty of the voucher system. The schools no longer have a monopoly, but now have to compete on quality. If a private school is providing better education at a cost equal to or lesser then the public school, the taxpayer (whether they have kids or not) come out better. The tax money is being spent more wisely.

Everywhere vouchers are tried, the results are impressive. Just check out how it helped out in Cincinnati, Ohio.

At 9:21 AM, November 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have much to add to the cited voucher essay, which pretty much nails it for me. But I'd say this: One of the quirks to the U.S. educational system is that there is right now, as we speak, an extremely robust system of private school vouchers -- it's just that the system is confined to post-high school education. I can take a Pell Grant or G.I. Bill money, or [fill in the federal or state grant/loan program of your choice] and apply it to pretty much any school I want, religious or not. I can as easily take Pell Grant money to Notre Dame as I can to U. Illinois. These programs seem quite popular with people who otherwise oppose vouchers at the pre-college level. I've never been able to receive a persuasive justification for the distinction. I don't see how the anti-religious education argument is undercut by confining the system to post high school education, or how the "draining money ftom public institutions" argument is undercut. All a school vouchers program is in a post WW II America, is an extension of Pell Grants and the like to pre-College education.

It's hard to escape the conclusion that opponents simply don't want to weaken the power of the teachers unions, which are one of the most powerful leftist interest groups in this country. Kids seem to rank way below power in this equation.

At 10:40 AM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

Actually, the Pell Grants and private college system have seen costs spiraling out of control and out of reach of most people. This is yet another case where privatization = higher costs, and one of the arguments for public schools. Does introducing grants really solve any problems for people, or just shift the money around and give the rich a break for sending their kids to St. Johns?

If you asked most suburbanites today if they were happier with the way that their high-school funding works, versus higher education, the fact is most would say our public school system is far superior. What is needed is not more "Pell Grants" at the high school level, but more affordability at the college level.

At 10:59 AM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I think this quote would be her answer:

"Memo to suburban voucher opponents who "support public education": you're already sending your kid to private school. You're just confused because your tuition fees came bundled with granite countertops and hardwood floors."

At 11:26 AM, November 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Private college is out of the reach of most people? Do I believe you or my lying eyes? College attendance levels are hardly decreasing in the United States.

College costs are definitely going way up. In part, this is a result of poor public high school education. One reason: a high school diploma is no longer a signifier of basic literacy and numeracy. This forces people to head off to college to get a degree that actually means something to an employer, and the resulting credential creep inflates college attendance and when you up demand you can up costs.

By the way, has the federal food voucher program (you know, food stamps), put into effect to avoid having the government farm crops, ranch and operate supermarkets caused food prices "to spiral out of control"? Just asking.

Some public high schools are just fine, and so are some public colleges. It helps when you can pick the school you attend.

At 11:31 AM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I would argue that people have shown a willingness to pay more for higher quality colleges, when very affordable options exist like UHD and community colleges - they *choose* a higher cost option. But they're denied that choice with public schools - just mediocre free vs. very high cost private schools, because, without vouchers, the middle options can't economically exist.

At 12:59 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

I'll take the "granite counter top" variety public school, thanks!

College attendance is not going down, but costs are going through the roof. Just as our privatized health care costs are going through the roof. Does this mean I will drop my health insurance, or not get an education? No, but it means some won't be able to afford it. And some will be forced to go to UHD because Rice or Stanford are not even in the realm of possibility, economically speaking, or they are but the student will have six-figure loans upon graduation.

College costs going up because of poor public schools? Nice non-sequitur.

I don't really care to support private schools - if you want to spend your money to send your kids there - go for it. If you want a handout from the feds for doing so, forget about it. Unfortunately for you all, the great majority of the public agrees with me - because your side fails to convince us why sending our kids to Clements High school and going on to Stanford is problematic. You also fail to convince us how vouchers solve for the poor, who is presumably who might be helped by such action.

I see vouchers as a handout to the rich - for doing what they are already able to afford and need no further assistance with - which is sending their kids to St. Johns.


At 1:09 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

Also, on the comment:

"mediocre free vs. very high cost private schools"

I think that's a key problem with the voucher argument - the assumption that public schools are somehow inferior to private. The point is, the middle class does not want private schools because the public schools for the middle class are often excellent. Not mediocre.

Just because the religious right and rich want a government handout, does not mean the middle class wants the same.

At 1:19 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

If you read her piece, that's the exact problem with the argument: the middle class has already exercised "school choice" by moving to the school district of their choice. The poor often have no such option. Middle class support for public schools is essentially an "I've got mine" argument.

As far as "handout to the rich", did you see her acceptance of means testing for vouchers? Did you even read the arguments *thoughtfully* before commenting?

At 1:27 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

Yes, I read the arguments. Yes, I understand that the middle class has moved to the suburbs. And yes, I understand that you could structure the program such that it is not just a handout to the rich, but the religious right only.

Are we getting anywhere yet? How do vouchers help the poor? If you can't make a convincing argument for that, then you have a non-starter of an argument. And unfortunately, the "private is always better" arguments do not work with me - just like "taxes are always bad" or "roads are always better than subways" type of argument - basically - religious belief as political philosophy. Whereas I believe - if it ain't broke - don't fix it.

At 1:38 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Brian Shelley said...


If vouchers are a waste of time why aren't the places that have them getting rid of them? Why do Sweden (for 16 years), Belgium, the Netherlands, and Ireland (who all outperform us in education) have nationwide school choice programs?

Milwaukee has had vouchers for 17 years. D.C. has them. Cleveland has them. New Orleans now has them.

Global Competitiveness? The UN ranks the U.S. 22nd of the 28 most industrialized countries in the world and we're falling further every year.

Hand out to the rich? Every voucher bill proposed in Texas has been to send kids from the worst performing schools in the state, which are typically those from the lowest economic backgrounds.

Also every voucher proposal in Texas has said that you can not charge tuition beyond the voucher. This would eliminate anyone sending their kid to St. John's with the voucher.

It helps the poor who cannot afford to move to the suburbs by giving them a choice. How are KIPP academy schools able to trounce public schools when they randomly select children from the poorest of neighborhoods? Why would Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and others donate $100 million to expand these non-public schools if it wasn't clear that school choice annihilates public only school setups?

At 1:53 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Brian Shelley said...


How about some evidence from Harvard PhD Economist Caroline Hoxby.

"Public schools do respond constructively to competition, by raising their achievement and productivity."

"Students’ achievement generally does rise when they attend voucher or charter schools."

"Not only do currently enacted voucher and charter school programs not cream-skim; they disproportionately attract students who were performing badly in their regular public schools."

That's how it helps the poor.

At 1:56 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Michael said...


Good points.

However, the US owes much of its success over the past century to our expansive public school system - which has yielded a strong middle class. The vast majority of the middle class has no problem with the status quo, therefore, why bother changing it?

If you want to means test such that families making less than $40k can have school choice, fine. I do not oppose that - competition is a good thing - and I am in favor of economic desegregation plans.

What I oppose is a voucher system that includes the middle class or rich, because I feel it is unnecessary - and is a handout. My understanding is most voucher proponents are not advocating plans that target the poor only, as you suggest - but I would definitely support any plans whose goal is to improve the educational choice (not necessarily vouchers) of the most economically disadvantaged.


At 2:27 PM, November 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me just respond to a couple points:

"I don't really care to support private schools - if you want to spend your money to send your kids there - go for it."

Assuming you are a taxpayer, you are supporting private colleges with your tax dollars right now through myriad grant, loan and subsidy programs. You never said you were against these programs. If you are, at least you are shwoing some consistency. If not, the question isn't why you are against vouchers -- you aren't. The question is why you are against them at only the pre-college level. I'd like a voucher opponent to address that at some point, but I haven't heard it addressed yet.

"You also fail to convince us how vouchers solve for the poor, who is presumably who might be helped by such action."

Let me make this as clear as I can: most voucher proponents, myself included believe that school vouchers is the paramount social equity cause of our time. They are very specifically about helping the poor. In case you aren't getting it, the middle class effectively exercises school choice by moving to wear the schools of its choice are. The poor have less freedom of movement and thus less ability to do so. The voucher debate is not about helping out rich parents choose private schools. The rich kids will attend exclusivce schools no matter what. vouchers are about giving poor kids a fighting chance out from lousy schools that have not improved despite generations of lavish public subsidies and perpetual "reform".

As for what's popular, there's a lot of cynicism on the anti-voucher side. There are cyncial teachers unions that fund scare campaigns, cynical middle class parents, who don't want poor kids flooding into their schools, cyncical wealthy liberals who send their kids to private schools but wish to purport to support public education, and cyncical poor folks who think that anything sponsored by conservatives must be some sort of a plot against them.

The left has owned public education in inner city schools for going on 50 years. You'll probably get another 50, but it's hardly to the advantage of the kids trapped in those schools.

At 2:48 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Michael said...


Read my last post - I think you will see that I am not very far off from your viewpoint.

However, I think you need to be very careful calling something a "voucher" plan, because most people will view it the way KJB and I did, which is a general plan applying across most, if not all, income levels. Again, I oppose such efforts.

Also, I would say that I favor "school choice" - whether that be by busing to suburban school districts, charter schools, or otherwise. A grant system is not required.


At 3:05 PM, November 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally come at this issue from the angle that vouchers (and you can call them "knishes" for all I care, whatever sounds palatable) are the best way to provide poor kids with a shot at reaching the middle class. A poor kid warehoused for 12 years or so in a lousy public school, emerging without basic literacy and numeracy skills simply has very little chance at a decent future in a knowledge economy. Anti-voucher proponents talk about forthcoming "reforms" and adding new "resources" to inner city schools. They have been singing the same tune for, literally, generations now. It isn't working, and these kids are the ones suffering. That's my immediate concern, and it's clearly the bent of the prime movers behind voucher initiatives nationwide.

As for the larger point, I believe that "public education" is a result, not a program. You can achieve the education of the populace through a system of government-run schools, or you can allocate funds to individuals and allow the private sector to do it. You can achieve public nutrition by establishing a network of government farms, ranches, distribution centers and supermarkets, or you can give people a voucher and lt them buy what they will in the market. I recognize that the idea that the government need not be in the school business AT ALL is a true departure from what most people are used to, and I agree that it's not necessarily a place we need to get to address some crying need for the middle class and above, but I wouldn't have a problem with a fully private or public-private system as an end result, and, as I've been noting, that's what we have right now for post-high school education, and no one seems to mind (or even notice?)

At 3:06 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Brian Shelley said...


Sorry for the shameless self promotion, but I just posted a writing I did a few months ago giving a moral argument for vouchers and School Choice.

Let me know if you think it's any good. Just click on my name and it should be the first post.

At 3:12 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

"You can achieve the education of the populace through a system of government-run schools, or you can allocate funds to individuals and allow the private sector to do it."

This is exactly what I am talking about. Why should we want this for our suburban schools? Those schools are fine - they suffer virtually none of the problems of the inner-city schools. Again, if it ain't broke...

At 3:28 PM, November 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian, great post! By the way, I wasn't aware that a school choice system existed in Europe. I've noticed that there are a few areas where some European nations have allowed private choice in areas that are government run in the U.S. Examples include the privatized postal system in Germany (and in Australia also) and private retirement accounts in Sweden. Not stuff you hear much about when being told that the U.S. must copy European practices...

At 5:08 PM, November 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Europe is slowly revolting against the socialist crap they have been fed for the last 60-years.

They realize that more government does not make life better.

The government running schools initially in the US was needed. We were a forming nation. Australia followed much the same patter we did.

But now we are at a point were the status quo is not working. Teachers unions need to be dismantled or rendered powerless. My mom is a retired teacher in Louisiana who, throughout her career, railed against the state teachers union and is continuing to make their life a living hell. She exposed a lot of corruption, but they still are powerful enough to squash opposition.

The new governor is very interested in her and many of the teachers that are fighting against the union. Hopefully change will happen.

The downfall in the urban schools is related to the Unions fighting so much for the teachers that the kids weren't a concern.

To me, many of the anti-voucher crowd are more concerned with preserving the current state of the schools versus helping the kids.

The reality is, vouchers DO NOT COST MORE than the status quo. Each school is allocated money based upon enrollment. There is a breakout of per student spending. So removing a student and giving the per student spending amount as a voucher would just be like child transferring. No cost increase.

Some school districts spend much more on students than the cost of private education, the taxpayer would end up saving money by only paying the private tuition and not the full cost going to the public schools.

This will also help shrink classroom in the urban schools which should provide a better environment to teach in. Also, many urban school districts are a center of wasteful spending at the school board level. HISD has had numerous news stories by local TV stations that detail wasteful spending. They usually come around whenever sweeps week occurs.

At 6:27 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

If you all really favor programs for school choice for the poor, why don't you support busing students to the suburbs? I would favor that over giving somebody a credit to send their kids to Catholic school (which I would never support, and would hope to argue again before the Supreme Court is unconstitutional).

To me, "school choice" should still be about
"public school" choice - or charter schools. Religious schools should not be included.

At 8:49 AM, November 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you all really favor programs for school choice for the poor, why don't you support busing students to the suburbs?"

If school vouchers aren't going to pass muster with voters, it's hard to see how forced busing of kids from poor into middle class communities would get anywhere. But here's another idea, Michael: rather than engage in coercive schemes to troop kids from one place to another against the will of citizens in two separate communities, how about we allow parents to CHOOSE which school their kids will attend, including use of a PRIVATE option, if that seems to be the best option, factoring in quality of school and transit time to get to the school? Just throwing it out there.

"I would favor that over giving somebody a credit to send their kids to Catholic school (which I would never support, and would hope to argue again before the Supreme Court is unconstitutional). "

Luckily, the Supreme Court, in the Zellman, case already ruled vouchers constitutional. Again, Michael, I think we pretty much established that you are in favor of vouchers, it's just that you are against them for pre-college students. Hard to see why the whatever Constitutional arguments can be mustered against vouchers for 12th graders don't work to render Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, etc. unconstitutional insofar as they allow me to attend Ave Maria, Note Dame, Texas Christian, etc.

By the way, wouldn't consistency on your part require you to forbid the wealthy from sending their kids to private schools?

At 9:48 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

I am against vouchers at the pre-collegiate level because we already have a school system in place that is excellent. There is something to be said for not having a revolution if none is necessary.

The only gripe you even have is about inner city schools, and for that there are solutions like charter schools and more magnet schools. Vouchers are at best a niche solution - in places like Cleveland only a small percentage of people even "choose" to use them. If you really want to solve the problems in our inner city schools - sorry - but vouchers is just barely scratching the surface of the issues facing those schools and communities. Time to think bigger.

I am not familiar enough with how Pell Grants work versus vouchers, but in theory I would oppose them as well if used for institutions with a particular religious charter - because I believe in the separation of church and state. Period. Maybe the Supreme Court disagrees with me right now, but that does not mean I do not continue to vote for candidates / plans that uphold the separation of church and state.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that overall, in the voucher argument, the libertarians are in the minority (as is typical for their arguments). You may not like my viewpoint, but I'm pretty confident that when all is said and done, I represent more of a typical viewpoint than you do. You favor a radical solution that maybe "solves" (??) for 10%, whereas I would favor in general approaches that solve for all students - which means strengthening our public schools, and not even touching our suburban districts (with the exception of possible busing programs).

At 9:51 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

Also, as to your question:

"wouldn't consistency on your part require you to forbid the wealthy from sending their kids to private schools?"

Not sure if I understand your point. The wealthy can do what they want, but they do not need a handout from the government to do so.

Just as in the case of national health insurance, the wealthy will be free to buy more expensive / different coverage if they so desire.

At 10:05 AM, November 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The wealthy can do what they want, but they do not need a handout from the government to do so."

You've really abused the word "handout" throughout this thread. It's not a handout if it's your own money. When people complain about handouts, they usually mean that someone is being "handed out" money that was earned by somebody else. Letting me control my own money is not a hand out... more of a "hand back."

At 10:10 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

Like I said before, if you support "hand backs", then support them across the board. I want back the 40% (?) of my money that is going for our defense budget.

Why should I support a "hand back" that does not benefit me and seems to benefit only a small subset of people, possibly at the expense of others? Unless, that is, you support them across the board, as I've suggested.

At 10:39 AM, November 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should I support them across the board if they do not work across the board? Some things work better when controlled publically, while other things are better done privately. It may be that we're at a tipping point where so many public schools have gotten so bad that privatization is starting to make sense. Your faith that public schooling is "excellent" is not borne out by the experiences of high school teachers like myself, who have been inside some of these schools.

And the argument that public schooling has traditionally done so much for our country, like producing a middle class, is a red herring... this is not the same country that it was fifty or a hundred years ago. Fifty years ago most students, even if they did not like school, at least understood that it was to their benefit to go. Now there is a large portion of society that disvalues education and whose children actively oppose being taught anything. Throwing money at them is not doing any good because it simply reinforces the idea that their school is not by and of them - it is something imposed from outside. People take a natural pride in institutions that they select, and that they feel are "of" their community. Privatization of some sort could go a long way towards improving student attitude and performance.

At 11:02 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

Private is better than public is your real red herring. That may sometimes be true, but in this case, I see no reason why we should overhaul our school system. Like you said, many students / families in the inner city just don't place the same emphasis on education, or are in a vicious cycle of poverty, and nothing is going to change that. So build some magnet schools and charter for the ones that do want to learn. Problem solved.

At 11:11 AM, November 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not a red herring if it directly pertains to the argument. A lot of evidence suggests that private is better. And trying out vouchers gives us a way of seeing if this is true.

By the way, saying people disvalue education because they're stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty is like saying people disvalue food because they're stuck in a vicious cycle of hunger. If a person rejects the food they're offered, they have no right to complain about being hungry. That is what's happening with education in our inner cities right now.

At 11:18 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

"A lot of evidence suggests that private is better"

So lay it out there then. Give me evidence that voucher systems are better than building magnet / charter schools. I am all ears. I see no reason why there should be much difference between the two - both offer choice and a potentially better education.

At 12:17 PM, November 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both offer choice, but vouchers offer more choice. What if somebody wants their children to have a religious education? Why should they be forced to pay for a secular school? Or what if a private school does things better than what any of the government schools are doing?

At 12:48 PM, November 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Magnet and charter schools have their own detractors. They are alleged to be a bad thing on the basis that they drain the best students from general schools. Magnet and charter schools are just fine with me, but pumping them up is simply evidence that the overall system is flawed and requires alternatives. These particular alternatives are simply proxies for a voucher system.

Watch what people do, not what they say. I've found that opponents of school choice don't send their kids to public schools in neighborhoods in core central cities. Never ever. It's "choice for me, not for thee." There's a word for that, starts with hyp...

At 1:06 PM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

I don't feel like the private religious school system should even have anything to do with this discussion. If the private schools want to take people in for free, or through charitable contributions, go for it. I am not in favor of giving anyone a "hand out", "hand back", or whatever you want to call it, to put kids in religious school. Again, if you support hand-backs, I do not support the special interest of giving them only to Christian people, and only for this issue of primary schooling. Again, the Supreme Court may have ruled that this is Constitutional, but that doesn't mean that such measures aren't going to be unpopular with the majority of people who value the principle of separation of church and state.

If you have a voucher system without restrictions on what schools could be chosen, I think you will end up with de-facto promotion of religious schools and faith-based education for the poor - quite simply because most private schools are religious schools. I think education should be based on science and fact, not religion. Again, if you disagree, you are welcome to send your kids to private school. And private schools can charge or not charge whatever they wish - as is already possible today.

I don't think we should be encouraging poor children to not learn about things like evolution, safe sex, and the like. With all the wealth there is in the Christian commmunity - this shouldn't even be an issue - just give more money to the diocese / etc. if you strongly believe in faith-based education for anyone who wants it.

Charters and magnets are not proxies for vouchers. They emphasize a traditional academic curriculum, not a religious one.

Another thing I find funny - you claim that the teachers unions have a strangle-hold on the inner city (and the suburbs, I presume). Well, why don't you all defeat the bond issues for public schools? Why aren't the poor clamoring for your alternatives? In fact, the only serious opposition I heard to the HISD bond this time was that not enough was being spent on the poorest areas / schools, a legitimate concern. If anything, these schools need more money than the ones in the suburbs. The suburban bond issues sailed through at 70% + approval.


At 2:16 PM, November 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The poor are supporting voucher measures. Especially poor blacks in inner cities. They are among the most vocal proponents of the voucher system. They realized that throwing money at the problem doesn't work and never will. They are the primary proponents in Cincinnati that pushed their voucher system through.

Until a voucher system is offered in a vote for them, you cannot say they don't support it.

Also, no public school system will openly support vouchers since it will be going against the status quo. It would be admitting they have problems. So they only way they can admit they have a problem is that they aren't getting enough money. The truth is they are spending more money on students than private schools with lackluster results.

At 2:23 PM, November 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Not all religious schools are indoctrination camps for religion.

I went through all my schooling at a Catholic school. I was in class along with Hindus, Buddhist, and non-Catholic Christians. These students went to Catholic school because the alternative was an under performing public school with low academic standards.

The truth is, from the Catholic School point, that religion is a background element to the actually academic education. The non-Catholic students at my school looked at the religion class as an elective in another culture. It was also very eye opening to have these other faiths present.

The resulting quality education to these students parents was so important, that they wouldn't trust them in public schools. These parents were also active in the school events and quite involved. Some of the wealthier ones even donated heavily to the school.

If I had kids, I would gladly take out loans to send them to private schools versus public. That's what my parents did. They weren't rich at all. Actually, lower middle class.

They just wanted the best for me than what public schools had to offer.

At 2:47 PM, November 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of all the problems plauging inner city youth (or any youth), the idea that getting an hour of religious instruction once a week is so terrible that it's worth warehousing them in dysfunctional schools to avoid, is pretty silly. The argument, "Sure the kids are unequipped to attain a job, but at least they never learned to pray", is lame.

Anyway, a point of vouchers is
to serve as a springboard for robust competition in education which should lead to new private and secular entrants into the market.

If you get the chance, you should read Justice O'Connor's concurrence in the Zelman case. It's a plain English description of exactly how unremarkable school vouchers are, from a Church-State separation perspective.

Here's a link:

Part of the concurrence:

Although $8.2 million is no small sum, it pales in comparison to the amount of funds that federal, state, and local governments already provide religious institutions. Religious organizations may qualify for exemptions from the federal corporate income tax, see 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3); the corporate income tax in many States, see, e.g., Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code Ann. §23701d (West 1992); and property taxes in all 50 States, see K. Turner, Property Tax Exemptions for Nonprofits, 12—Oct. Probate and Property 25 (1998); and clergy qualify for a federal tax break on income used for housing expenses, 26 U.S.C. § 1402(a)(8). In addition, the Federal Government provides individuals, corporations, trusts, and estates a tax deduction for charitable contributions to qualified religious groups. See §§170, 642(c). Finally, the Federal Government and certain state governments provide tax credits for educational expenses, many of which are spent on education at religious schools. See, e.g., §25A (Hope tax credit); Minn. Stat. §290.0674 (Supp. 2001).

At 3:07 PM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

Let's go ahead and put this to a vote! I'd like to see you all put something on the ballot that would pass muster with the voting public - forget about just me. I bet you would fail miserably - but hey - it's always interesing.

Here's some recent news on recent voucher failures in Utah among the voters:

And anon - sorry - but separation of church and state is not lame. That's like saying the bill of rights is lame - "freedom of speech" is overrated, or some such nonsense. It is a fundamental principle of our government. I would rather build a magnet school or address the root causes of public school problems than have the government involved in putting somebody in a religious primary school setting - sorry - you are going to have a very hard time convincing me otherwise.

At 3:37 PM, November 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, my point is that (1) vouchers are consistent with the establishment clause of the constitution, (2) there are myriad ways in which the government provides support to religious institutions, including educational ones, with which you seem to have no objection, (3) students with parents of means already have access to religious schools, and (4) finally, if the "cost" of allowing Johnny and Jane to become literate is having them take in a couple Biblical verses that they'll forget by the time they're of legal drinking age, gosh I really don't see that as a prohibitive price.

I agree with one point of yours though: your side wins. Vouchers are not sweeping the land, and the status quo is prevailing. The reason for the triumph of the status quo is the power of an extremely cynical coalition that I discussed previously. The middle class and wealthy don't need to support a new school choice plan, because they have effective school choice right now. My personal view is that the failure of school choice to catch on represents a tragedy for millions of poor kids. There's nothing enlightened about the current system, and there's no higher value being served. I am currently childless, live in a gentrified urban core (where you'd have to look pretty hard to find a school age kid of yuppie parents), and work in an urban core (where there are many school age kids, all children of poor who can't get out). I see first hand what this educational system is doing to kids of modest means. I have never been able to attach a charitable description to the attitude of wealthy people, who claim to care for the poor, and who would never allow their own kids to set foot in an inner city public school, who are nonetheless opposed to school choice.

Good luck hanging your hat on urban politicians in the pockets of the teachers' unions going after those "root causes". All that going after root causes in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s was just a build up to that big final push to really REFORM urban education and give it adequate RESOURCES, and now that vouchers are being defeated, it's really just a matter of time before 5th Ward schools start turning out Nobel laureates by the bushel basket.

At 4:04 PM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Michael said...


My point is, if you really favor school choice, you probably could craft something where both sides could reach an agreement. You and the others on this board want to defend the religious perspective, and that is fine, but the reality is that you are equally guilty of keeping the kids in the status quo by doing so - since such efforts will be far more controversial than other forms of school choice, and most likely will not come to pass.

As far as other religious issues - I do believe this is a unique issue. An 18 year old deciding to go to Notre Dame with a Pell Grant or a dead person leaving their estate to Second Baptist is different than sending a 5 year old to Catholic school because the family has no other public school choice (ie magnets / charters / etc). Sorry - just my honest opinion.


At 12:32 PM, November 12, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Published: November 2, 2007
"THE Hill Country, a swath of about 15 rural counties just west of Austin and San Antonio, has three things most of the rest of Texas doesn’t: trees, water..."

Apparently, the writer for the Times thinks the entire state of Texas is only where he drove from Dallas to Austin. Does that dude have a map?


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