Thursday, August 10, 2006

Foolish to view foster care vouchers as a threat

I've been asked to write an article for Edspresso on Arizona school vouchers.

As a former foster child, I will be sharing:
1.) How being in foster care limited my educational opportunities.
2.) How the Arizona voucher program might have made a difference.
3.) Other reasons that I think that the voucher program is a good idea.

I will post a link once it is published.

Meanwhile, I would like to explain more about these vouchers, and why some groups are threatened by them.

Arizona vouchers for foster children
Within the $10 billion state budget recently signed by Governor Janet Napolitano was a new $2.5 million voucher program was approved for foster children, granting scholarships of $5,000 per student to attend the school of their choice (public or private).

This could be good news for Arizona's population of approximately 10,000 children in foster care. A scholarship would mean that a foster child would stay at the same school, learning (and hopefully exceling) in the same curriculum, even if he or she were forced to change foster homes.

Accusations by naysayers
School choice advocates call the vouchers a victory, while public education advocates are outraged.

Was this budget deal, as some claim, "negotiated in secrecy" and "voted on in the middle of the night?" Does it "jeopardize school funding?"

Is it true that, as Chuck Essigs, a lobbyist for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials, has claimed that, "The deal is not worth the damage?"

Does it breach on a core value or set a dangerous precedent? My answer is: no.

Was Chuck Essigs ever a foster child? Does he know what it's like to change schools on average of five times per year? Would he like to attend the public school in whatever foster home he was living in, regardless of whether or not that school offered suffient college preparatory classes?

I don't think so. My suspicion is that his paycheck is on his mind more than whether foster children in public schools are receiving the support they need to overcome their economic challenges.

Get your facts straight
Rep. John Allen, of Scottsdale, reports that, "The vouchers weren't taking money away from the public school system. We weren't going to spend more money there in the first place."

Darcy Olsen of the Goldwater Institute commented that, "This is about students, not systems. It's not about whether we fund private schools, public schools or some combination. Grant money goes directly to students."

Or, how about this quote from Joyce Thompson in Cleveland, OH: "Kids don't ask to be born in this world. They don't pick their parents. I really wanted the best education for my daughter but I couldn't afford it. Then I heard about the scholarship program and there was hope."

For more information, check out Dan Lips' article at: http://www.edspresso.com/2006/08/help_foster_children_on_educat.htm

Sources:
Falkenhagen, Andrea. School voucher deal angers some. SchoolChoiceinfo.org
Lips, Dan. Help foster children on education. Edspresso.com
McNeil, Michele. Arizona adds foster care voucher to school choice package. Education Week, Vol. 25, Issue 42: July, 12, 2006.
Strickenberger, Benjamin. Arizona state legislator and Governor Napoliteno expand school choice. Lexington Institute, Issue Brief: June 26, 2006.

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