Last week, the House passed a largely symbolic measure to reauthorize the District of Columbia school-voucher program. The measure is unlikely to go anywhere in the Senate and is opposed by the White House. The voucher concept is gaining ground among Republicans, however, as a way to promote more parental and local involvement in schools. The Indiana House passed a voucher bill a day after the vote on the D.C. voucher program, part of an education agenda being pushed by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Opponents of vouchers, including the White House, say they are a poor use of taxpayer dollars and are not an effective way of improving student achievement. Americans United for Separation of Church and State says vouchers force taxpayers to subsidize religious schools.
That's the national debate on school choice. At the local level, people feel disconnected from the schools in their communities, according to a new study from the United Way. People say they want more community involvement in children's education, particularly by faith leaders; 86 percent of respondents said "faith communities need to play a greater role in helping children succeed."
Is the frustration with local schools explored by the United Way study a problem with the education system or with other community and socioeconomic issues? Are people happier with their community's schools if they have more alternatives? Are the concepts of school choice and community involvement intertwined? Or are they separate issues? How can communities boost local school activity without imposing a taxpayer-funded voucher system?