kitchen table math, the sequel: West Wing & the Jesuits

Saturday, March 7, 2009

West Wing & the Jesuits

The first time I saw this pro-voucher clip from West Wing, I didn't know anything about Jesuit schools.
Mayor of DC: I have a few thousand names on a waiting list for vouchers already. Go into any one of my schools. Ask kids who want to go to college what they think of vouchers. They'll ask you where they can sign up.

President Bartlett: Could you ask Charlie to come in, please?

[Charlie arrives; sits]

President Bartlett: Tell us where you went to high school.

Charlie: Roosevelt.

President Bartlett: A public school.

Charlie: Yes sir.

Mayor of DC: Where'd you want to go to school, Charlie?

Charlie: Gonzaga. A parochial school. Near Union Station.

Mayor: Why?

Charlie: There's never been a shooting there, they don't even have metal detectors, almost everyone goes to college.

Mayor: Couldn't afford it?

Charlie: Couldn't come close to affording it.

President: You know what this meeting's about?

Charlie: Yes, sir. The mayor told me.

President: What do you think about trying an experimental voucher program for DC schools?

Charlie: I wish they would have had one when I was in school.

President: You planning on telling me that any time soon?

Charlie: Can't say that I was, sir.

President: Your Honor, I'm going to need your help putting out some fires within the Party on this one.

Mayor: You got it. Thank you, Mr. President.

music up

Gonzaga Prep is a Jesuit high school.


Voices of School Choice
A Vote for Ignorance Chicago Tribune
Will Obama Stand Up for These Kids? Wall Street Journal
Voucher Subterfuge Washington Post
School Choice Has Media Mainstreamed CATO

President Bartlett signs on for vouchers
Senate votes down funding for DC vouchers

12 comments:

SteveH said...

I ran into a parent last year who helped me understand the anti-voucher position. It's all about money. His position was that ANYTHING that diverted money from the regular public schools was wrong. All that was stopping schools from doing more was money. Then, of course, there was the feeling of unfairness. Why give only some kids better choices?

So, my question is whether you can improve education for all by being fair? Fair with money or fair with school choices.

Cranberry said...

I think it's easy to persuade parents to support the anti-voucher position, but it's not money. It's the nagging insecurity about whether their district is a "good school district." The more frequently local families choose other options for their children, the more in doubt the "good school district" status would be.

If they could stop families from sending their children to private schools, they would. You need only look at the comments on the "About his deposit" article in the New York Times. Somehow, there's this idea that if only all the children in the country were sitting in public schools, things would miraculously improve. They wouldn't improve, of course. However, no parent would be permitted to spurn their local school district. If there's not dissent, everything's wonderful.

concernedCTparent said...

I miss West Wing! In an episode called Six Meetings Before Lunch, Sam Seaborn has this to say about vouchers:

"Public education has been a public policy disaster for 40 years. Having spent around four trillion dollars on public schools since 1965, the result has been a steady and inexorable decline in every measurable standard of student performance, to say nothing of health and safety. But don't worry about it, because the U.S. House of Representatives is on the case. I feel better already."

Sadly, Sam's position paper on vouchers turn to have been opposition prep. I felt so let down.

Crimson Wife said...

"Somehow, there's this idea that if only all the children in the country were sitting in public schools, things would miraculously improve."

As a home educator, I hear this argument all the time. The speaker acts like I've got some sort of "noblesse oblige" to sacrifice my child's education so that I could devote all my energies towards waging a Sisyphean attempt to improve the government-run schools.

Sorry, folks, ain't gonna happen. But I do realize that not everyone is able to homeschool their children, which is why I support school choice including vouchers for low-to-moderate income families.

Catherine Johnson said...

I ran into a parent last year who helped me understand the anti-voucher position. It's all about money. His position was that ANYTHING that diverted money from the regular public schools was wrong.

You know -- I used to assume this was true & I'm pretty sure it's not.

I'll check into the various articles about it, but what seems to be the case is that the money spent on the voucher kids is so much lower than money spent on public school kids that the public school kids end up with more per pupil.

There's a town in CT in which the mayor is apparently trying to pay parents to take their kids out of the public schools.

(I'll find the article.)

Catherine Johnson said...

As a home educator, I hear this argument all the time. The speaker acts like I've got some sort of "noblesse oblige" to sacrifice my child's education so that I could devote all my energies towards waging a Sisyphean attempt to improve the government-run schools.

I love that!

You hear that in every walk of life where there's a powerful, entrenched behemoth clobbering a dissenting few.

"Work to change the system."

How about no?

Catherine Johnson said...

If they could stop families from sending their children to private schools, they would.

I find it miraculous that homeschooling is as legal as it is.

Is there a source I can read on the history of homeschooling thus far?

I agree with you.

There are many who would make homeschooling illegal if they could.

Catherine Johnson said...

Although....at this point I think you'd have trouble recruiting parents to support such a move. Homeschooling has been legal for quite a while, long enough to become status quo (I think). And when you point out to parents that there are many kids who get bullied at school, the thought of making it illegal not to send your child to a school where he's being hurt by other kids is going to push most people to think we need to keep homeschooling legal and alive as an option.

Anonymous said...

"...but what seems to be the case is that the money spent on the voucher kids is so much lower than money spent on public school kids that the public school kids end up with more per pupil."

This depends on how the budget is made.

Possibility #1 is that the state/county/city/whatever decides to spend 'X' dollars on K-12 education and the spending per pupil becomes X/pupils.

Possibility #2 is that the state/county/city/whatever decides to spend 'Y' dollars on each enrolled student and the K-12 spending becomes Y×pupils.

In case #2, sending kids to private schools or homeschooling or using vouchers results in fewer students for the public school system, but also less money and so no increase in $/student.

I suspect that the actual approach is a bit of a mix between choices 1 and 2, but I'm quite certain:

(a) If ½ the public students in California were pulled out of school this summer, we would *NOT* keep the funding for next year the same as this year *or* drop the funding by ½. It would likely be something in the middle (with the extra money being spent on social programs).

(b) If the 10% of students in California currently not in the public school system were enrolled over this summer, the K-12 spending would NOT go up by 10% (for one thing, where would the money come from?). It might go up a bit.

-Mark Roulo

Catherine Johnson said...

Mark - thanks.

I'm sure you're right about this.

I'll find those sources.

SteveH said...

In our area, homeschoolers are considered to be peculiar or just plain wrong. Parents who send their kids to private schools are elitist, but there is no feeling that they should stay to help the public schools. There is more of that feeling with charter schools. When my son was in a private school, one parent was relieved (?) that he wasn't going to a charter school. But that's really about money. They feel that money is diverted from the public school to the charter school even though the cost falls outside of the school budget. Members of the school committee supported a law that would prevent students from a "High Performing" school from going to a charter school. It's about money. They already think we have a great school.

The state legislature finally got the courage to pass a bill that would give large city mayors the power to bring in KIPP-type schools. Many complained that this money should go to regular public schools. The claim is that lack of money is the only thing stopping these schools from providing a better education. Why give the money to someone else?

That's what happening around here. Everything is framed as an argument over more or less money. More money equals better schools. Parents around here don't care where your child goes to school as long as you don't take money away from the public school.

If all of the private school kids decided to come back to our public school, the school budget would go up at least 25% and there would be a bigger cry for larger class sizes and fewer programs. This might be offset by a larger group of parents fighting for more money, but it's not clear that it would make up the difference.

Getting kids to go off to private schools would save towns oodles of money. If the absolute cost of schooling goes down for a town, they are more apt to allow the cost per student to go up. If you can pay families $5000 per student to subsidize private school tuition, then the town is saving a bundle. The only issue is that the cost versus students function is not linear or continuous. It won't work with just a few students.


The problem I have is that the debate always focuses on money. They argue over SmartBoards, but not curriculum. Academics are only evaluated in terms of numbers on a low cut-off state test and anecdotal stories of how "our" kids do in high school and college.

Crimson Wife said...

Catherine,
There's a lot of good information on the history of homeschooling at Ann Zeise's website here.