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Can We Really Depend On Vouchers To Reform Education?

By Angela Wittman

School choice , accountability, education reform, parental choice, vouchers, charter schools; it seems we've been hearing these words with increasing frequency the past several weeks. But have we really examined the meaning of these phrases and the impact that they will have upon our educational freedom? Perhaps we need to examine the long term effect that a Federal and State voucher program will have upon our private schools, religious institutions and families.

As a former Government School Board Member (1995 - 2000), I have seen firsthand the danger of accepting government funds and the involuntary chains that accompany it. Some of these chains are not so apparent in the beginning - but chains they are. Any time you accept any type of government funding, you are accepting the stipulations and regulations that accompany it. It is this knowledge that caused me to reconsider my position as the Southern Illinois Founding President and Coordinator for Citizens for Educational Freedom in the battle for vouchers. A position that I recently resigned from.

I saw the dumbing down and implementation of Goals 2000 in our "local" school district. I felt helpless and hopeless as a school board member who was in the minority when it came time to vote against these federal programs. As a matter of fact, I usually stood alone and watched perfectly intelligent men and women jump through every government hoop set before them to get extra dollars "for the children." Then I sincerely grieved for the parents and children of my community as they became entrapped by those very same programs that were so zealously pursued by school administrators. In my grief, I thought that the competition of "school choice" would be a quick fix. But as time went on and I studied the issue of vouchers and President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" education legislation, I became convicted in my heart that the very freedom I was promoting through vouchers and/or tax credits would be the very method of enslavement of our private, religious and home schools. I can no longer in good conscience participate in the implementation of an educational voucher system.

There is only one way to have total freedom in education for our children and grandchildren. It is not through a compromise with the federal government - our children were entrusted to us by God Almighty- not the state. We must stand boldly and refuse to let them become educational prisoners of the state. How can we do this? By the abolition of the Federal Department of Education, repealing compulsory attendance laws, accepting our parental responsibility, and ending all state, local and federal government involvement with school financing, content and standards. More government programs are not the answer even if the programs are disguised as "School Choice."

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Originally published in 2002.

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