Thursday, October 27, 2005

Katrina & K-12 Vouchers

It is reported in the Wall Street Journal that there is a proposal to pay for school districts to take displaced students in the aftermath of Katrina.
"There's no shortage of bills in Congress to provide school aid for victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes. But by far the best proposal out there is the Family Education Reimbursement Act, if for no other reason than its express goal is to circumvent the bureaucracies that make it so difficult to speed federal relief to displaced students and the schools that take them in.

The measure was introduced last week by House Education Committee Chairman John Boehner of Ohio and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, both Republicans, and its implementation couldn't be simpler. To create an account, parents could register on the Web, through a toll-free number or by signing up in person at a school. The accounts would provide up to $6,700 for each child, which is the average expenditure in states that have been enrolling the bulk of Katrina's 372,000 displaced students.

Next, parents would provide the account number to the school enrolling their child, and the school would use that information to get reimbursed. That's it. No endless paperwork for the families. No lengthy reimbursement procedure for the schools. Instead of forcing a school that has graciously opened its doors to refugees to make an extra funding request to the district, which in turn must go to the state, which in turn must go to the feds, the legislation provides a user-friendly alternative.

All schools would be eligible -- public, private, parochial or charters. And the accounts would be portable. The money would follow the child in case a displaced family decides to move back home or relocate somewhere else. And in a welcome nod to fiscal conscientiousness that has been all too rare in Congress, at the end of the school year any unused funds would go back to the Treasury. The program would be administered by an agency -- preferably a private one -- that could be up and running in as little as a month's time."
Hey, this sounds like a voucher, we can't be doing things that way. It might work and things could then get out of hand. Vouchers in Colorado for higher education. Now vouchers proposed for helping children after Katrina. People may be starting to see there is wisdom in education vouchers, eh?

I note these vouchers would be for $6700, or the average cost per student at the schools displaced students are enrolling in. I wonder if we should be concerned about what is going on here, even if vouchers are being used? After all, these students are displaced because of Katrina, and that means local government in the damaged areas are not having to educate these students. Isn't there tax revenue that has been collected for the affected school districts? And, even if not, why isn't the responsibility for educating these students falling on local government? It seems that the hurricane hasn't changed the nature of education funding in our federalist system. Perhaps the $6700 should be a loan to local government?

No comments: