Originally created 06/29/02

A victory for poor kids



The U.S. Supreme Court has given children from poor families the same opportunity rich kids have had for centuries: a choice of where they go to school.

Rich kids have always had the opportunity of going to the best schools - they either had the privilege of living in stable, high-income communities where public schools were supported, or their parents could afford to pay for private schooling.

But for decades poor kids have too often been stuck in underperforming schools.

The Supreme Court's voucher decision is not going to fix all the problems associated with poverty, but it will give those parents who are determined to give their children a better education the opportunity to do so.

No longer will the government be able to tell them, "no, you must leave your child in this school because, even though it's failing to educate students, it's the law."

Parents who want to take advantage of the new choice can now take their child to a parochial or private school. Public schools will have to compete harder, now that parents have choices. And, as we've seen throughout history, competition will make schools stronger.

The decision to support school choice is an affirmation of American values, not a denigration of the American public school system, as some would argue. Sure, there is change ahead for public schools as a result of this decision. But few can convincingly argue that change isn't needed.

Further, this isn't a promotion of religious-based schooling. As Chief Justice William Rehnquist stated in the court's opinion: "There is no dispute that the program challenged here was enacted for the valid secular purpose of providing educational assistance to poor children in a demonstrably failing public school system. ... There are no 'financial incentives' that 'skew' the program toward religious schools. ... Such incentives are not present ... the aid is allocated on the basis of neutral, secular criteria that neither favor nor disfavor religion, and is made available to both religious and secular beneficiaries on a nondiscriminatory basis."

A final note: Those who want to maintain the status quo in public education are too often the bleeding-heart liberals who live in affluent communities and whose children attend schools that are the envy of families living on the other side of the tracks.