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Lamar Alexander’s Analogy that Vouchers are Like the GI Bill MIGHT Backfire

January 28, 2017

One of Diane Ravitch’s posts yesterday opened with this paragraph:

Senator Lamar Alexander likes to say that vouchers for religious and private schools are akin to a “GI Bill of Rights for Children,” a transfer of public funds to be spent anywhere.

She then ran an extended counter-argument from a veteran who used the GI Bill who pointed out why the analogy was false. The comment section also included rebuttals to the analogy, including one from frequent commenter Lloyd Lofthouse, a Viet Nam vet, who noted the discrepancy between the actual costs of college and the amount he received to pay for college. In reading his comment, I came to the conclusion that it might be possible to use Mr. Alexander’s analogy to illustrate how vouchers would really work.

Conservatives love to make the argument that vouchers will “help disadvantaged children”. But the amount of money given to parents in the form of vouchers is— like the GI bill— not enough to cover the actual costs of any K-12 school… unless that K-12 school is a for-profit charter that employs non-union teachers. Mr. Lofthouse, like most who took advantage of the GI Bill, had to “…(work) nights and weekends” to supplement the grant he received and also had to borrow money to cover the actual costs. In the meantime students from more affluent households could dedicate their time and energy to their studies.

If vouchers enabled a child in the Bronx to attend Bronxville schools or an elite private school they might be a means of improving educational opportunity… but thanks to public education advocates like Diane Ravitch the public is becoming aware of the real endgame of vouchers: they are designed  to undercut funding for public schools everywhere and to support private, parochial, and ESPECIALLY privatized schools.

In writing this post I wanted to make certain I was informed about the GI Bill and that led me to Wikipedia where I found this choice synopsis of the launch of the Gi Bill and its history since then:

During the 1940s, “fly-by-night” for-profit colleges sprang up to collect veterans’ education grants, because the program provided limited oversight.[8] Similarly, for-profit colleges and their lead generators[9] have taken advantage of the post-911 GI Bill to target veterans for subpar products and services.[10] The Veterans Administration, however, does have a GI Bill feedback form for recipients to address their complaints against colleges.[11]President Barack Obama also signed Executive Order 13607 which was to ensure that predatory colleges did not aggressively recruit vulnerable military service members, veterans, and their families.[12]

If the Republican majority in Congress ultimately appoints Betsy DeVos or another voucher advocate to head the Department of Education, I hope that in their capacity of overseeing student loans that they will use former President Obama’s Executive Order as a guide…. that is unless that Executive Order is rescinded by President Trump, which seems likely given Mr. Trump’s personal experience overseeing a college that was fined for predatory recruitment practices.

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