Monday, August 6, 2012
This is a question I’m asked repeatedly regarding the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program. This unedited question is copied straight from an email I received.
There are two ways to answer this question - a long answer and a short answer. I’ll give both.
The first answer: I assume that do it better really means provide a better education. Certainly that is important but there is another consideration for many parents. It could, and probably should, also refer to doing a better job of protecting children with special-needs from bullying. Bullying unaddressed by educators in some public schools is the reason many parents decide to use the scholarship - not academic reasons.
Most detractors don’t know that participating private schools have to meet certain standards. For instance, private schools that choose to participate in the program must meet accreditation standards set by the State Board of Education. Unlike poor performing public schools, private schools that do a bad job educating children run out of paying customers because students can take their money to a school that does it better.
The question also seems to assume that what I think about private schools matters to parents. I’m not the one choosing which children participate or which private school they will attend. The law does not grant me the responsibility of arbitrarily assigning participating children to specific private schools by some nonsensical system such as basing it on their home address. That is how children are currently assigned to schools in the public system. In the Henry Scholarship program, parents are solely responsible for choosing the private school their child will attend.
The Lindsey Nicole Henry Program makes an assumption, which I believe to be accurate, that parents who choose to use the program love their children more than the public school system does and that parents are perfectly capable of making big decisions that are in the best interest of their child. In this case, it is the process of researching and selecting a suitable private school.
The question is always general in nature. Parents are not choosing between an idea like public schools and a different idea such as private schools. Parents who are using the program are choosing to transfer a particular child from a specific public school to a specific private school. So the answer to the question depends not on a general idea, but on which specific private school is in question.
The law does make a general value judgement: More options are better than fewer options. Parents make the specific value judgments of whether to participate in the program and what private school their child will attend.
At this point, the question has been answered but the answer is longer than necessary. I usually just give a one sentence answer styled as a question. I think it makes my point perfectly if children are our first concern.
How do you know the public school to which a child is assigned does it better?