By guest contributor Jennifer Juhl Jarrell
I’m waving my hands in the air from Kansas, jumping up and down, and calling out, “This is everything!” Because it is. People of Nebraska, I am here to tell you that once vouchers slither into your state, they will consume your excellent public education system over time. You will never, ever get rid of them and they will only expand and destroy. We managed to vote out Brownback in Kansas, but we are unable to rid ourselves of vouchers now.
Google “The Wonder School.” It’s a private, UNaccredited, FOR-PROFIT school started by the Koch family in Wichita, KS. It is the pilot school, but it will be rolling out across American soon enough. Wonder will begin by targeting states that provide vouchers (like Kansas). It will then open schools in communities that have windows of opportunity, including underfunded public schools and private religious schools. Not only will Wonder siphon off “good” students from public schools, the model will eventually compete directly with private schools, primarily religious ones. The model takes the “best” students in each community and educates them in ways that seem innovative, but are complete unregulated and UNaccredited. The schools will have “lectures” by “leaders”. That is code for 40 students in an auditorium listening to someone talk to them who is not a licensed, trained teacher.
The Kochs will continue to push “school choice” laws in state legislatures–the ultimate goal being state funding that “follows the student”. In the Wonder model, schools educate for profit, not for the students themselves, and taxpayers foot the bill. Rich folks invest in this enterprise and make money off the backs of children. It’s absolutely nothing more than privatization for profit, like the private prison model.
Students who are not admitted to “the new, innovative, selective school in town” are simply left behind. Public schools, their funding now depleted by voucher programs, will warehouse the cast offs. Private schools will close, because religious communities cannot compete directly with schools like Wonder. In fact, this is a point that is often overlooked. The “school choice” backers attempt to hoodwink religious communities, tricking them by promising that vouchers will help keep their school doors open. And at first, this is true. But it is simply a trick, because the endgame is purely profit and schools like Wonder will go head-to-head with private schools over time. In less affluent communities, there will not be room for both a private Catholic school and a school like Wonder. Religious schools will simply not have the student volume to stay open.
This is where we are heading as a nation. In Kansas, we are fighting so hard, but we lose ground with every legislative session. It’s like quicksand. Do not step in. Do not go over there! Not only will the children of your community and state receive a substandard education, vouchers will result in a less educated workforce, reduced property values, and communities that are unattractive to business. Follow the money. This is how you can see the truth, plain as day.