Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Educational Vouchers for the Onteora School District

I just sent this letter to Paul Smart, editor of the Olive Press.
Dear Editor:
A local government official has revealed a shocking statistic to the Town of Olive Republican Committee.  The average cost of education in the Onteora school district is currently $31,000 per enrolled student.  The official who revealed this number compares Onteora's $31,000 per student tuition to a national average of $10,259 per enrolled student and a New York State average of $17,200.  New York's public tuition is the highest in the nation, according to the official, but Onteora's is 44% higher than the state's average.
Assuming the $31,000 per student cost number is accurate, let us see how Onteora's costs compare to private schools'.  Nationally, in 2008 the average private school tuition was $8,549, 27% of Onteora's.  Nonsectarian secondary schools averaged $27,302 while Catholic elementary schools averaged $4,944.  Many of the nonsectarian secondary schools are elite schools that cater to the wealthy.  According to one survey Northfield Mount Herman in Massachusetts is the top ranked private elementary school.  The tuition for day students, according to its website is $31,700, roughly the same as Onteora's cost per student.  The UN International School, one of the best private schools in Manhattan, charges $24,350 per year, 21% less than Onteora.  The Beekman School in Manhattan has tuition of $28,500. The Rudolf Steiner School, with a 1:8 faculty-student ratio charges $29,468. Beekman calls itself "the tutoring school" and offers customized schedules, university-level classes in math, science, humanities and English, an average class size of eight (8), and one-on-one tutoring in concentrated subject areas.  Beekman has a one-on-one college placement program (one guidance counselor to one student) with continuous follow up conferences to refine college choices.  Guidance counselors guide students through the college application process. Specialized classes with three (3) students may be formed if requested, such as for advanced placement.  Tutoring is available once or twice per week. The school provides eight written evaluation reports in addition to four quarterly report cards.   98% of Beekman students go on to college. 
What is the college attendance rate for Onteora High? Given that the three Onteora schools are more expensive than Beekman, do they provide similar services? Are class sizes limited to 8 students? Is there intensive career guidance?  If a student wishes to study acting, is a course set up to cater to them?  If not, where is the $31,000 in teacher jackpot money going? 
It is going to keeping an extra school open. Moreover, the Onteora School district puts students far down on its list of its priorities. The $31,000 per student cost is a pretext to fund teachers' salaries, pensions and administrative bloat.  Teachers are more interested in indoctrinating students ideologically than in teaching the three r's. The Democrats are loyal to the teachers' unions, and could care less about your children. This is because of the dominance of academic certification organizations like the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which could care less about the three 'rs and exclusively emphasize political correctness.
In his book Capitalism and Freedom,  Professor Milton Friedman came up with an ingenious idea.  Give school budgets to parents in the form of vouchers, and let them decide the school to which they send their children. Schools would compete for students just as automobile manufacturers used to compete for customers. Onteora would have to compete with Beekman and the UN School, and provide an education of a comparable standard to Beekman's for the same price.  Since the taxpayers of Olive have magnanimously chosen to spend like a rich person on behalf of the Town's children, it is foolish to squander the money on subsidies to Onteora's unproductive school administrators as the Democrats have chosen to do.  We Republicans believe that if we are spending as much on education Olive's children ought to be given the same educations that rich people's children receive.  It is true that this arrangement would likely mean lower salaries and pension benefits for teachers, less administrative bloat, and fewer make-work jobs, which is why the teachers hate libertarians and the GOP but love the tax-and-spend Democrats.  But there is little doubt that your children would be better educated under a voucher system.  Perhaps it is time to ask the Onteora School district to compete with Northfield Mount Herman, the UN School and Beekman, and to end the festival of waste in the Onteora School District.

Mitchell Langbert
Town of Olive Republican Committee


Doug Plumb said...

What do you think of the rumours about the big schools divesting Israeli based assets ?

Mitchell Langbert said...

There have been discussions like this for years. One issue is whether tax exempt 501 c 3 organizations can act politically and not suffer tax penalties. 501 c 3, which governs universities, prohibits lobbying or political activity for tax exempt organizations. Another issue is protests from students and parents. Perhaps the schools that divest (if any) will find themselves divested.

Dionysia said...

Ι live in a place far far away from the USA. Could you please help me with the pronunciation of 'Onteora', since I have found this place name in the text I am editing right now? I wonder where the accent goes (ontEora? onteOra?) and if the letter 'e' is pronunced as the latin 'e' or the latin 'i'.
Thank you.