Framing the Dialogue

Parse-imony – Vouchers

In “Parse-imony” I break down current news stories with my pithy, running commentary…

First the headline:

Poll: Most Pennsylvanians oppose school vouchers

Nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians oppose creating a voucher system that would use tax dollars to pay private-school tuition, according to a public opinion poll released yesterday.  [Sounds bad for voucher proponents]

The poll, commissioned by a coalition of groups opposed to school vouchers [What are the chances that a poll commissioned by a “coalition” of groups opposed to vouchers will get these results?], was conducted by Terry Madonna Opinion Research. Madonna is a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster County.

Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 1, legislation that would create a voucher system that would be phased in over three years. In the first year, low-income students at 144 schools the state has marked as “persistently lowest-achieving” would be eligible to use a tax-funded voucher to pay their tuition at a private or parochial school. Eventually, the vouchers would be available to all low-income students. [Sound reasonable?]

In the March poll of 807 adults, 61 percent said they were opposed to the voucher idea, while 37 percent said they supported it. The margin of error was 3.4 percent. [It is hard to put too much faith in this poll as it is of “adults” while politicians really want to know what “likely voters” think.  Polls can be skewed based on what time of day they are taken, how the questions are phrased, what order they ask the questions, etc.  There are so many variables that this remains questionable in my mind.]

The number who disapproved was down only slightly from a similar poll conducted last summer. In that poll, 67 percent were opposed to vouchers.

Three-quarters of the respondents who said they would support vouchers indicated they were less likely to do so if the statewide cost was $1 billion [When was the $1 billion figure revealed.  I would suggest that many would be opposed to any government program that will cost that must], a figure at the high end of estimates for the third year of the proposed program. [An article in the same paper the following day put the cost at less than a third of this figure]

Pennsylvanians Opposed to Vouchers [POV is perhaps short for POVERTY which is where kids will remain if they are trapped in under-performing schools.], which commissioned the study, is a coalition that includes education policy groups; the NAACP [I cannot understand why the NAACP would oppose a voucher program that probably predominantly benefits minorities.] and other minority advocacy groups [Ditto]; the Pennsylvania State Education Association [This one is easy] and other unions; and groups that support the separation of church and state. [This is a real cabal of left-winged groups if there ever was one.]

“I’m not really surprised — I’ve lived through this voucher fight before,” said Sandy Zelno, a school reform associate with the Education Law Center, one of the coalition members. “I think this bill is really false hope for parents.” [No failing schools protected by special interest groups to the detriment of students is false hope.]

While supporters of the voucher bill say the plan would allow students to escape poorly performing schools, opponents maintain that an expensive voucher program would harm public education by taking money — and the most motivated students — away from struggling schools. [It is not enough to tlsrap struggling students, but they also want to trap “the most motivated” students.  My guess is that these students raise the average on standardized test scores.  How can any thinking person read this and not realize that it’s not about the students; it’s never about the students.]

Gov. Tom Corbett has expressed support for a voucher program, and his nominee for secretary of education, Ronald Tomalis, has emphasized school choice as a cornerstone of the administration’s plan to reshape public education.

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