Even in the best systems, like Maryland, which spends an average of $13,738 per student, children struggle with basic writing and math in college. More than 60 percent of students who studied a “college prep” curriculum in high school need to take remedial classes at community college, and the statistics are hardly better at the state’s flagship school, the University of Maryland at College Park.
If the successful students in the country’s best school system (as ranked by Education Week magazine) need so much help, what does it say about students in the rest of the country? Can a majority make correct change or write a grammatically correct cover letter after graduation?
The sad thing is poor and minority students like those in Louisiana and in Baltimore City, my former home, are the ones most impacted by failing schools. For them, vouchers have proven a way to escape dangerous schools where those who want to learn are sacrificed for those who disrupt class or worse.
An August 2012 joint study from Matthew Chingos of the Brookings Institution and Paul Peterson of Harvard University shows just how much vouchers can help.
The authors compared the outcomes of students who won a voucher through a lottery and those who didn’t in New York City in the late 1990s through 2011. No other study has tracked students over such a long period of time. They found that black students who won a voucher through the lottery for the slots were 24 percent more likely to attend college than those who didn’t win one.
Given that the cost of the private program was $4,200 per child over a three-year period, it’s not hard to extrapolate that governments around the country could help millions of kids and save hundreds of millions of dollars by expanding voucher programs, since most private schools can educate children much more cheaply than public schools.
The evidence is there. For the sake of the 4,900 children in Louisiana, millions more throughout America and our economy, children need to start being the focus of our education dollars.
Marta H. Mossburg is an independent columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.