To the editor:
On Aug. 21, I attended a DFL town hall on education, with Rebecca Otto, Angie Craig and others. Otto stated several times that, as governor, no money would go to private schools. It’s unconstitutional! Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that vouchers are constitutional, some states, like Minnesota, have amendments in their constitution that prohibit state money from going to religious schools.
Otto insisted there is no evidence vouchers work and they weaken public schools. This is flatly false! Some short-term studies showed little improvement, possibly due to adjustment to a new school. But, longer-term studies show not only higher test scores, but also higher graduation rates and likelihood of going on to college. A study by a University of Arkansas research team on the Washington, D.C., program showed those who received vouchers had a 91 percent graduation rate compared to 56 percent for applicants who weren’t accepted.
Louisiana and Indiana have statewide programs that include vouchers for private or religious schools. Studies in these states lasting four years and beyond show that voucher kids not only surpass their public school peers, but the longer they stayed in their new school, the better they did. Indiana serves 34,000 voucher kids and Louisiana 7,100 of which 90 percent are African Americans. People will not pull their children out of public schools if they are happy with the status quo.
Private schools typically have different cultures, methods of discipline, teaching habits, specialty curriculum and personal safety. If some children do better in one setting than another, why keep them trapped in public schools rather than give the choice to parents, who know their child’s needs better than some bureaucracy. When money is tied to the student rather than the school, competition incentivizes for schools to do better.
Why are Otto and Craig and the rest of the DFL against something that can actually help the racial inequity in education? Could it be because the DFL is heavily funded by teachers unions who protect underperforming teachers and try to prevent the public schools from having to compete so they can keep them under their control?