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Who gets to choose?

My TLN Blog-partner and colleague, Bill Ferriter, posted a great comment by a reader named Mike on the topic of school choice and vouchers. I hope you read it because Mike certainly has a wonderful way with words.

I agree with Mike that education is not inherently a for-profit undertaking, particularly if we are talking about providing education for everyone's child. For example, my husband and I have two handicapped children. Would the government be willing to give us a voucher for the full cost of their education? Forgive me if I don't take that leap of faith.

Some private schools are willing to take on students who have been labeled (often mislabeled) as at-risk or hard-to-teach, but what about those students whose parents or guardiansdon't fit the private school criteria for involvement or have the ability to pay for the "extras" not covered by vouchers? (I referred to some of these in my blog entry "Be careful what you wish for"). I'm thinking of homeless children I teach; those whose parents are incarcerated, intoxicated, or just incompetent.

I once worked in an urban emergency room (I'll tell y'all that story one day) with a young man who was completing his internship as an orthopedic specialist. He was frustrated by the challenging, unable-to-pay patients he had to serve there. Finally, he stormed into the doctor's lounge muttering, "I'll be glad when I get my practice set up; then I can choose the patients I want!"

There's an undercurrent to the voucher/privatization movement that reminds me of that young man: We want the students we want.

If America is to fulfill its promises and be a great democracy, then every child must be educated. And they all can be; if we're willing. Certainly, we can do public education better, and we must; nevertheless, a true democracy will always need public education.

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