Essays and Theories

The School Voucher Systems: Territorial Considerations in the Resource Alignment Theories.©
(Formally titled: Politics2000: The School Voucher Systems: Territorial Considerations in the Resource Alignment Theories)
William A. Spriggs

I have mixed feelings about the subject of school vouchers as it effects the education of our children and ultimately the future of our country; there is good that comes from school vouchers, but I don't believe that enough has been brought to the forefront against the various proposals to balance the arguments. One view that is missing is the evolutionary perspective which I think should be taken into consideration before we plunge ourselves headfirst into plans that could lead to possible danger for this country's stability. The danger that I fear are territorial disruptions that occur when gaps widen between those that have, and those that do not have. That is the reason for this essay.

We all want to see that our children get the best education possible as it gives them the means to improve their lives, their families, and ultimately, all of us. Occasionally, a child matures and surprises the world with her or his abilities, and returns it in the form of discoveries in the sciences, the arts, and the humanities that can have enduring benefits for all of us on the planet. Every educated child means that our future will be that much more secure if done properly. A planet that takes care of its children first, takes care of its own future.

The reason that I have difficulty with this subject is that I believe that the voucher system benefits too few in the short run, while perhaps doing more harm in the long run to certain territories and to those students, parents and local communities that do not have the cultural inclination, the minimal financial qualifications, nor the will to participate in the various programs. Now, I say programs, as in the plural, because there are variants of school voucher plans out there. Some examples would include Colorado Proposition 17, that was placed on the Colorado general election ballot of 1998 (and was defeated) that would give tax credits to parents that participated in selecting a school of their choice. An offshoot of that proposal would be to give tax credits to parents who teach their children at home. (The religious right sponsored that one). Another example, would be the creation of Charter schools that would operate within public school districts; be independent of public school regulations while receiving public funds. And of course, the example most familiar to people, is the direct voucher; public funds given directly to families to "shop" around for the school of their choice.

Although all four systems are different in the details, the basic mechanism for all the educational reforms is the same: to transfer monies from bad schools or school districts that seem to constantly fail in educating children properly, to better schools that seem to have discovered the gift in bringing out the best in their children. The core principle that appeals to conservatives is the Darwinian nature of the concept; that through competition and the free market arena, better schools would emerge from the quagmire of stifling bureaucracy, outdated regulations, bloated budgets, and inept instructors, who, the conservatives argue, are protected by teacher unions. Like an imaginary battle between two beasts, the stronger, more able animal supposedly will beat the inferior every time, and as a result, our species benefits by producing more "fit" creatures that are winners. Having won the battles of competition, the winning behaviors, cultures or species then prospers and multiplies.(Wait a minute -- if that theory is correct, how come the wealthy and élites in our society have fewer children than the poor? Should it not be the other way around?  One must remember that Darwin's "survival of the fittest" refers to the gene line that is the most reproductively successful; it does not refer to those individuals that have the biggest biceps, the greatest socialization skills, nor cunning mentality.  I'm sure that you have heard the phrase, "being in the right place at the right time," in terms of advancing one's career, stock purchases, or Lottery number picked; the same can also be said about belonging to a particular gene pool.  But conservatives like to take up this battle mantra because it assuages their overinflated egos; pumps up their testosterone levels; and it justifies their lofty positions in the social hierarchies of their local environments. After all, "...we didn't get to be top dogs by sitting on our duffs," they like to remind those of us of the lower ranks.  What is really happening in the world is that the poor, by Darwin's original definition, would be the "winners" under natural selection because they are out reproducing the rich white élites of America. (I know why this is happening, but I'm not telling).

Before I write about my fears concerning school vouchers, let's see if we can reach consensus on several evolutionary assumptions that are crucial to my argument:

As discussed above, the transfer of public funds into private hands seem to innately flow from a "weaker" territory to a "stronger" territory. This natural appeal is based on the amount of resources that the stronger territory possesses in comparison to resources in the weaker territories. I call this desire for the "better" place, The Resource Alignment Bias. It basically means that there are more resources in the stronger territory, and biologically, that means it is a better environment in which to pass one's genes; the goal of evolution. The allure of school vouchers has an innate appeal, but like all advertisements for a product that catches our dreams and desires, we don't know the whole story. (The mechanism that the human brain evaluates the differences in resources between the two or more areas is what I call The Resource Comparison Bias; once again, see the Littleton essay).

What I fear is a transfer of resources and materials flowing into one district which already has an advantage, and flowing out of a weaker neighborhood that is at a disadvantage and making it even more weaker in the process; creating what I have labeled: The Resource Differential Intolerance Ratio, (see my  Capitalism essay). The theory goes something like this: There is a innate, peaceful co-existence that occurs between those that have and those that do not have resources. Everyone is content with the present hierarchical system, but then something happens. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. The gap widens, and the poor begin to see with their own eyes that the rich have much more than is needed for their basic survival needs. As the weaker school districts continue to weaken, the value of the real estate values around the losing schools most assuredly would also fall, accelerating the decline in what little community is left. After all, why would anyone want to move into a neighborhood that is dying? Why move in to a neighborhood where the only people left would be drug dealers and the aged, trapped in homes that have lost their value? As the property values plunge, the people who are trapped within the territory sink even further into a depressed state beyond despair. The territory becomes ripe for strife and violence as anger swells up as the natural expression of pain and suffering aimed at anything or anyone. These territories then become scars on the flesh of the American soul ready to become cancerous if left unattended. Of the four systems mentioned above, I find the charter school proposals the least offensive because charter schools may be located within the same territory as the public schools they competes with.  By territorial distance in the modern neighborhood, I mean least then a good hour or two walking distance -- say two to three miles.

I am presenting three items that will help to solidify my assumptions in this essay; all three of the items were published in The Denver Post; the proclamation below appeared on Feb. 23, 1999, and the letter to the Editor appeared on March 1, 1999. The proclamation is signed by my very own Congressional District Representative, Tom Tancredo, who sits on the House Education Committee, and by John Andrews, who is the vice chairman of the Colorado State Senate Education Committee. It is a proclamation to dump public, government funded schools in favor of the private, voluntary funding of education.


Proclamation for the Separation of School and State:

Now, the second item, the March 1, 1999 letter to the editor from John Andrews. Mr. Andrews is a Republican State Senator from Englewood. In the letter, Mr. Andrews explains his support for voluntary education and suggests that it is not an attack on public education.

My goal in public office, contrary to recent nonsensical items in your paper, is to improve education for all children. One way I'm working to do that is through (Colorado) Senate Bill 100, the charter Schools Expansion Act.

Charter schools meet a need for their students and provide healthy competition within the system. Colorado needs more of them.

Sen. Mike Feeley, my Democratic colleague, is out in left field with his accusation that through this bill and others, I secretly want to destroy public education. His supposed evidence, my previously publicized 1995 support for a declaration on voluntary schooling, proves only the known fact that Andrews hangs around visionaries. That's not news, and the (Denver) Post lent itself to partisan games in opening its pages to Sen. Feeley's silly conspiracy theory on Feb. 23 and 24.

There is good historical precedent for envisioning an America where school participation and funding are voluntary, kids grow up responsible and employable, literacy is high, crime is low, culture wars do not rock the classroom and unionism does not degrade the teaching profession. We were that kind of American when George Washington was president. We could be again one day, not through anyone's signature on a proclamation, but through gradual steps in the democratic process if enough people decide government schooling is no longer the answer.

A free society must not allow truth and right to be dictated by political majorities. That's why we require the separation of church and state; that's also why some of us hope for the eventual separation of school and state.

I don't view separation as a revolutionary panacea, but as a flexible guideline for the evolution of education policy according to the rules we all have to play by.

Those rules ask us to debate civilly towards consensus for marginal change, which is my commitments and, hopefully, that of other legislators across the aisle.

John Andrews.

If paragraph four, Mr. Andrews peals away any veneer of logic in his position by revealing the core motive for separating school and state: "We were that kind of country when Washington was president. We could be again one day,..." If I remember my high school American history, American at the time of George Washington was pretty much an all prosperous white male show. Our young country's economy was overwhelmingly based on cotton, rice, and the rising star, tobacco. Before the American Revolution, huge plantations were once the property of landed gentry whom were granted (given for free with little strings attached), the land from Royalty in England and then passed down genetically to male heirs. In the period preceding George Washington's rise, impoverished laborers were sent from England to America to work on property as indentured workers. These workers knew their place as "human capital" and did not attempt anything as dangerous as a labor movement concerned about working conditions.

Let me quote to you six sentences from the book that accompanied the award winning PBS documentary series: Africans in America: America's Journey through Slavery, by Charles Johnson, Patricia Smith and the WGBH Series Research Team, Harcourt and Brace, 1998, pp. 203 & 204.  The new president had decided to live comfortably, and he could not continue to live that way without his slaves.   During the war he placed himself in the path of danger.  He risked his life and lived under conditions that had killed many of his colleagues.  Now, in his later years, slaves provided the comfort felt he had earned.  The morally bereft stance tortured him: "I wish I could liberate a certain species of property which I possess, very repugnantly to my own feelings."

Many people had grown comfortable and accustomed to slaves providing a carefree way of life.  Inside glorious mansions and plantation homes, the inherent grandeur was dependent upon enslavement of humans who worked without even a flickering dream of freedom.  There was no upward movement for most, no way of working themselves or their children out of that dire predicament. (Permission to use quotes asked of Harcourt & Brace).

When George Washington died in December 1799, he declared in his will that his slaves would be free upon the death of his wife, Martha.  Martha became so paranoid that the slaves would plot her death, that she went to a Fairfax county court and freed the slaves on her property one year after George Washington died.  So yes, take us back to those wonderful coercive days when you could force people to work for almost nothing; you had to own property before you could vote, and slavery was allowed. We must not forget that George Washington enslaved 125 souls. Life was good for dominate males then, and "... could be again one day...."

What Mr. Andrews desires is the return of dominance of the particular variant in Homo sapiens of which he belongs. If not of the same variant, such as skin color, then at least let the male of the two genders take the lead. He longs for a plantation or fiefdom to look out over; slaves laboring in the fields gathering wealth for him at little cost; a submissive wife and family bowing to his every will. He is the captain of his fate. He is in la-la-lawgiver land.

Perhaps I sound a bit cynical, but another event does support my argument and it becomes the third item to support my assumptions. On July 31, 1999, at McNichols Arena in Denver, about 8,000 women gathered to hear the founder of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, James C. Dobson. He was there to give the keynote speech at the "Renewing the Heart" conference sponsored by his own group. As quoted in The Denver Post on Sunday, August 1, 1999, p.B1., Dobson said that "If a couple talks through an issue and still disagrees, the final decision goes to the man. Two captains sink a ship." I've thought about this comment at great length and decided that logic dictates that their should be no reason why the male should even enter into a debate with a female. If you know that in the end you will win your side of the argument, why even start? All the male has to do is make a decision and then not compromise. Argument over. He wins, 'cause he's the captain'. The mechanism is carried over from marriage into society as well. Some males assume they know better, 'cause they're 'the captains' of the ship, business, politics, and of course, the territory in which they dwell. Males are encouraged to pursue this course of action because evidence of their dominance can be seen in all cultures on the planet. But, one must remember, that in evolution, what has evolved, does not mean that it will continue to evolve. As we advance our knowledge of gender differences, we will find that there has always been two captains.

It is at this point that I would like to insert a question of logic that should help you further frame my "funds transfer" theory within a "territory" as a viable concept: if it is permissible to transfer public funds into small territorial areas under private control,  then it should be permissible to transfer public funds into private hands when the child leaves the territory to enter institutions of higher learning.  Although the original premise for the public to private transfer is the cry for betterment of educational opportunities  of the child, the air suddenly escapes and deflates the balloon when monies escape the territorial control of the dominate males and enriches another's domain.

With the 2000 year Presidential elections approaching, (Some pundits say it will all be pretty much over by March 2000 because of the California Primary being held then), we must be well informed on all sides of the issues. What I am most in conflict with the school voucher programs is the male dominate behavior concerning controlling the reproductive process of females. You ask, what does this have to do with school choice? The conflict with me, is that with accepting the conservative lead on school vouchers, tax credits, or charter schools programs to select from, single females would not have the freedom over their own reproductive bodies, but they would have the freedom as to where to send their children to be educated. The glaring hypocrisy in these two sets of circumstances becomes very clear when one realizes that school choice is given when single moms bring public monies into, by whatever method, the respective fiefdoms of possible male dominated territories, whereas single moms remaining in old territories represent a cash flow in the opposite direction of state funds.

The second serious conflict that I have with the school voucher system is that little concern is given, or said, of the school, the children, and the neighborhoods that have been left behind in the "losing" territory. The supporters of school competition shout that the "losing" territory will be given a clarion wake-up message. Shape up or lose out. Adapt or perish.

If the profit motive is so important, will consideration been given to children in wheelchairs or with learning disabilities, or will then be turned away as hopeless "losers?"  Has consideration been given to the possibility that private schools will "cherry pick" the best students and reject the worst?  Will these private schools set cultural standards too high for some students, and thus find ways to expunge, or expel who fall below their expectations.  Has anyone thought about about the possibility that a greedy entrepreneur may embezzle funds?  What happens then? Who picks up the pieces and educates the kids?   Who's trying to kid whom? If there was so much as a crumb of compassion in the first place, then all children, no matter where they lived; their physical or mental abilities would all be important. This is about power, location, and increasing influence within territories.

I know in my heart that conservatives mean well. There is good evidence to support their arguments about finances, school performances, inept teachers, and union featherbedding. I have never stated that the system is perfect, and that there is vast room for change and experimentation. But the real successes of the schools that have found a method to brighten a child's face and stimulate the brain into thinking that learning is a joy have not been studied enough. There has not been enough study outside of academia about the surrounding local environments and social structures effecting education. Nor, has their been enough study concerning the interrelationships of students within the school environment effecting academic performance. I believe that the risks for separating school and state is merely the top of a slippery slope plunging us into social disruption and disorder. We can not have a few cities shinning on top of the hill, surrounded by the many crying out for equality and justice. We can not have the best of times for some and the worst of times for others. Widening gaps of resources only lead to division and strife. E Pluribus Unum.

Caution: All assumptions and theories are to be considered speculative, and must endure the test of time and debate.

I think that as an additional bit of information supporting my beliefs that private or charter schools are not really the answers to better education. I am going to offer you a video from the popular American culture called: Stand and Deliver. This is a true story about a math teacher located in the East Los Angeles area of California. It is about a teacher who would not take no or can't as a rejection to his goals that he set for his students.. Jaime Escalante at Garfield High school recognized that there was potential in all of his students, regardless of their origin. As the back of the movie jacket tells us..."Escalante cajoles, pushes, wheedles, needles, threatens and inspires 18 kids who were struggling with fractions and long division to become math whizzes." The story is true and should be held up as an example of what one teacher in a public school can do if he treats his students with dignity and respect; and fills them with the desire and excitement of learning.

What also occurs in the movie is a perfect example of what I call The Resource Retention Rule. When all of Mr. Escalante's students passed the first Advanced Placement Calculus exam, representatives of the testing service (I'll bet you half a box of stale donuts that the testing service was located in an wealthy eastern suburb) did not believe that a group of inner-city kids could all pass an advanced placement calculus course in mathematics and assumed that they and their instructor were cheating. As the culture that controls the gateway to further education, this institution asked them to admit their guilt or retake the exam. Jaime Escalante and the students had no clout, and could not beat the gatekeepers who stood in their way. The students submitted and agreed to take the exam again, and once again, passed the exam. In 1982, Garfield High School had 18 students pass the Advanced Placement Calculus Exam; in 1983, 31 students passed; in 1984, 63 students passed; in 1985, 77 students passed; in 1986, 78 students passed, and in 1987, 87 students passed.

Yeah, right. Kids in poor inner-city schools are stupid. Not.  Enjoy the movie, and enjoy the Voyage.
William A. Spriggs

Origin: Aug. 4, 1999  

March 27, 2001

Here's an update to the essay with a perfect example of what can happen if public funds are transferred to private hands: The material cited is from The Denver Post, March 27, 2001 issue, p. 1A. Title: Jeffco charter school accounting faulted, by Kieran Nicholson.

It seems that two investigations into a Jefferson County charter school has found that the school's use of $3.1 million in bond proceeds have led to possible lax financial accounting, misuse of power and conflicts of interest. 

Some other findings in the report included:

Now, I realize that it is possible for non-voucher type schools to also have irregularities and accounting problems, and that this Denver Post article may prove to be meaningless.   But it does focus the question back to that which I raised in my essay: What happens if a public funds are embezzled by school officials who view the charter system not as an educational tool to advance our students, but of a financial honey pot worthy of effort to steal and plunder?

March 27, 2001


Stand and Deliver (1988)
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Rated: PG
Edward James Olmos, et al.
Director: Ramon Menendez

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NTSC format
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• Color, Closed-captioned, NTSC
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For additional citations for what life was like during George Washington's time, I'm offering you the opportunity to purchase the book that I mentioned and quoted above.

Africans in America : America's Journey Through Slavery
by Charles Johnson, Patricia Smith, WGBH Series Research Team


Hardcover - 416 pages 1 Ed edition (October 1998)
Harcourt Brace; ISBN: 0151003394 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.47 x 9.47 x 6.40
Other Editions: Paperback, Audio Cassettes, (Abridged) Sales Rank: 64,727

This extraordinary book--the accompanying volume to the PBS series--looks at the history of slavery in the United States with an honesty that reveals both horror and heroism in the common humanity of all Americans. Uncovering the indigenous history of African slavery and the involvement of Arab and European nations, it then traces the journey of enslaved Africans across the "Middle Passage" of the Atlantic to the Caribbean and America. Charles Johnson's spellbinding fictional narratives beautifully evoke the feeling of times and places, such as the Haitian revolution or the plantation slave society. In "The Transmission," two captives in the bottom of a slave ship try to preserve their heritage. "Oboto quietly sang to his brother--in a language their captors could not understand--how their people long ago had navigated the New World ... on and on like a tapestry, Oboto unfurled their past, rituals, and laws in songs and riddles..."

Poet/journalist Patricia Smith's historical anecdotes and references to legendary African American heroes (including Olaudah Equiano, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass), juxtaposed with rare documents, letters, slave advertisements, slave-ship cargo diagrams, and paintings, provide evidence of the African American fight for freedom, from the black soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War to the Underground Railroad to the return to combat in the Civil War. When emancipation finally came, Smith writes, "the newly liberated slaves sang for themselves, for their new country, and for the thousands upon thousands of Africans ripped from the clutches of home." --Eugene Holley Jr.
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