‘School choice’ diverts public dollars to private schools

2013-02-18T08:00:00Z ‘School choice’ diverts public dollars to private schoolsGuest column by EDIE MCCLAFFERTY missoulian.com
February 18, 2013 8:00 am  • 

As a public school educator for the last 10 years, I have been blessed many times over to shape the young minds that come through my classroom. It is an honor to teach the future leaders of our state, and I share the desire to make sure our kids have the best possible chance in life – not only as a teacher, but also as a mother of three children.

“Public education in Montana is the great equalizer,“ Gov. Steve Bullock told Montanans recently. I couldn’t agree more. No matter the circumstances of their upbringing, the monetary means of their parents, the beautiful part of the state they call home, young Montanans are given equal footing in our public schools. That’s why I was so disappointed when the Montana House of Representatives heard several bills that proposed spending public dollars on private schools. The proponents called these bills “school choice.” Let us not be confused, “school choice” is not about helping our kids. The proposal would divert public dollars from Montana’s public schools to special interests at a cost of over $3 million to taxpayers.

Alternatives to public schools have existed for generations. As a teacher I welcome the options that many of our parents have. In my hometown of Butte, our Catholic elementary and high schools serve their communities and students well, and Montanans who educate their students at home provide a viable alternative to public schools. But what you don’t see is those same schools and educators coming with hat in hand to ask for taxpayer dollars. Before we spend Montanans’ money, we must always ask who stands to benefit. Montanans are critical of outside special interests spending millions of dollars on our elections. Why then should we let special interests influence and benefit from our public education system?

Public education in Montana is among the best in the nation. Our eighth graders rank first in reading and math and second in science. With support from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Graduation Matters has been successful in reducing dropout rates and increasing graduation rates – all done with the input from local communities and elected school boards. In 2009 the Montana Legislature approved what would become the Montana Digital Academy program. Montana Digital Academy allows high school students – including home-schooled students – across Montana to take online courses in a variety of subjects. Montana Digital Academy includes a foreign language preparatory program for middle school students and AP classes so high-school students can complete college classes before stepping foot on campus.

We must continually work to develop new and innovative ways to increase the success of all Montana students. We owe it to Montana’s taxpayers and students to always do better. But continuous improvement can only come from an open, transparent process with oversight from locally elected school boards and input from parents and communities. Accountability to our students can only come from the taxpayers, not out-of-state special interests. Good schools are open schools and I urge you to voice your opposition to taxpayer giveaways.

Rep. Edie McClafferty – a teacher and former small-business owner – is House Minority Whip and represents House District 75 in the Montana Legislature.

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(8) Comments

  1. mike1
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    mike1 - February 20, 2013 2:19 am
    I like the original article. We have a very worthy public school system in Montana (as well as very good private alternatives as previously articulated), and I want to encourage development of all of them. However, I do not want to drain public school funds for vouchers or other funding of private systems. We need every dollar we get for our public education, and we are mandated to take/teach all students in the public system. Private systems are not required to school "all comers", and can, theoretically, cherry-pick students. Therefore, I think private funding should fund private systems.
  2. tfs1150
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    tfs1150 - February 19, 2013 9:10 pm
    Well Mr. Opinion, you must mean home schooling being half the cost of public education, but the last time I checked public education, K-12, was free to all our children. Now the way I was taught math, half of free is still free, and of course private education is not free.

    The monies required to fund our public schools are paid for out of property taxes and state withholding taxes, and we have an ethos in this state that puts a very high value on education. Corporate, Private and Business interests all agree that a highly educated population is one of our greatest assets as a state.

    The public schools are neither a monopoly or "dumbed"(sic) down, that statement simply refers to your ignorance of one of the best school systems in the nation. Perhaps you could enroll in the nearest high school, take some English and writing classes, and learn first hand what a great job the teachers and schools in this state can do....even with lost causes.
  3. tfs1150
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    tfs1150 - February 19, 2013 8:41 pm
    And, "Tough on crime" is propaganda for the private prison industry, where slave labor is legal!
  4. claudius
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    claudius - February 19, 2013 12:55 pm
    @Opinionated - You've been listening to the AM radio idiots again.

    On the whole, public education is better than private schooling.

    Where in the world did you come up with the idea that private schooling is cheaper than public education? Even Glen Beck isn't goofy enough to swallow that.

    You want to do something to improve public education? Show up at school board meetings and speak out against the anti-science fundamentalists who keep trying to use classrooms for religious indoctrination.
  5. Service
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    Service - February 19, 2013 7:09 am
    Sounds like another school employee afraid of the competition, after you've had a monoply on the system.
  6. It's Just My Opinion
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    It's Just My Opinion - February 19, 2013 7:01 am
    If public school was nearly as good as private school, and if it didn't cost us nearly twice what private education does, maybe it would be a good argument to keep public education. This country was built on free enterprise and competition. The public schools are a monopoly and have been dumbed down to the point where we need to do something to fix it.
  7. claudius
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    claudius - February 18, 2013 12:39 pm
    If the proponents of these bills were able to present funding sources that didn't add to taxes or raid public school funding, people probably wouldn't object at all.

    As it is, it's just another attempt to cannibalize a very good public school system to benefit private, for-profit corporations and people with a fundamentalist religious agenda that they want taxpayers to subsidize.

  8. The_Boneshackler
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    The_Boneshackler - February 18, 2013 11:46 am
    'School Choice' is just the propaganda term for 'School Privatization'. Just like 'Right to Work' is the propaganda term for 'Lower wages'
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