July 17th, 2008
12:02 PM ET
14 years ago

Commentary: McCain right, Obama wrong on school vouchers

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/07/16/martin.vouchers/art.martin.cnn.jpg caption=" Roland Martin says school vouchers should be an option for families with kids in dead-end schools."]ACCRA, Ghana (CNN) - "All I want is for my children to get the best education they can."

That statement, along with so many others, has been a consistent one that I've heard on my radio show and in discussions with parents for years, especially those whose children are stuck in inner-city schools with decrepit buildings and a lack of critical resources.

And for the past 20 years, one of the most talked-about solutions for parents stuck in dead-end, failing schools is to give them the option to use vouchers to send their children someplace where they could get a quality education.

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Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (207 Responses)
  1. Matthew From South Carolina

    Vouchers for private schools are ridiculous. That is just the same as taking money out of the hands of the poor and giving it to the rich. Private schools do not have to follow national and state standards as do public schools do. Private schools can be affiliated with organizations or religion and private schools do not have to have teachers with the same basic credentials as public schools, so why give the money that is to go to state-supported schools to private schools?

    July 17, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  2. Praying for America

    Why in America should we need vouchers. We are suppose to be the Best. We should be wanting everyone in America to get the best education. I disagree with John McCain and Roland Martin. We are having to compete with people from other countries and we are losing. Evidently they are educating all of their children.

    July 17, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  3. Sheople for Obama

    Don't like Obama-

    After engineering some pretty awful attacks on the whole Clinton family, Obama has nothing to complain about. Sounds like chickens coming home to roost, but to the now familiar sound of Obama blaming and whining.

    The Obamas have received kid glove treatment.

    It is one of the reasons why Obama, the least qualified of all candidates, is now the nominee of the democratic party.

    July 17, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. ml

    school system needs improvement for all students, the smart ones, the ones who are less smart. US ed system is behind European.
    Obama is wrong on more things than one. Mainly it is that he and his wife are about themselves only, it is not about people, the country, the world. Her main interest seems to be her, and her clothes. Then her kids and husband. This is what I am getting from the media. Also this overpopularity of Obama -see him, hear about him all the time, not about what he does and will do for people.
    We can care less about him going to gym, wearing old pants, or her having fashion show in every interview.
    We do need a leader, the people leader, the person who will fight for all of people, not only African American. All of people.
    No country has such a obsessive coverage of their leader, and Obama is not even in lead yet, he is only candidate as of now.

    July 17, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  5. Time to vett Obama

    Whiny Obama

    Conservative press? Are you kidding me? The liberal left leaning press is what got Obama this far. As far as Michelle goes, if she is campaining for her husband, she's fair game.
    ny Obama.

    July 17, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  6. Donald from SC


    I see your point, but disagree strongly. What can parents do in the outskirts of cities where both private and public schools are limited? If a parent can't pay for private school and needs a voucher, then how can that parent afford other costs like transportation, food, uniforms, and schools supplies? Then what about teachers? Would they stay in public schools while private schools become abundantly successful? Also, private schools are far limited in capacity for students than public schools. First and second years of a voucher program might see some improvements, but soon after you will see a whole plate full of new problems surface in the private sector. Now, you have worst public schools and poor private schools. So the temporary fix made everything far worst than before.

    July 17, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  7. DNC failed the base

    The Obama campaign is about change alright:

    This is a first. An unqualified, inexperienced, unaccomplished candidate running for president and hoping to win by playing the race and the victim cards.

    If you don't agree with Obama, you're labeled a racist.
    If you don't agree with Michele Obama, you're part of a "right wing conspiracy".

    This guy's a joke.

    July 17, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. Jeff in Illinois

    But if I'm in a district with poor schools which just barely meet federal guidelines, not only do I have to pay taxes, I do NOT get to send my kid to private school free of charge.

    I do not pay taxes so that others can get an unfair advantage. If you give vouchers to those in "underachieving" schools, you need to give them to everyone. Enough of the double standards.

    The main problem in so-called "underachieving schools" has very little to do with school funding. The underachievment is mostly due to poor parenting.

    July 17, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  9. Tammy from Cleveland

    That just goes to show, Obama is so out of touch with the regular
    American people.

    Hillary 08 As Independant

    July 17, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  10. Jason

    To Bulldog

    "What about just fixing the school system rather than giving people money to send them to other schools? Do we want solutions or band aids?"

    this is a major step to "fixing" our system. We have already proven time and time again that throwing more and more money into the schools does not help them. If you look at other countries (like Belgium) that operate on a voucher system and compare their scores on international tests, they blow us away. We are currently 28th in the world.

    The key to reforming the system is to end the ineffiency caused by essentially having a government backed monoply on education. Monopolies never please the customer and bred waste and poor preformance. If schools had to compete, IE please the parents/students, or else go out of business, they might just work harder.

    Ultimate example of the failure of the government backed monopoly. German cold war car market. Competitive system = West Germany = BMW, government backed monopoly = East Germany = Trabant. We are running a Trabant school system right now. Frankly, I'd prefer the BMW.

    July 17, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  11. nina

    I have a question: why is Obama so animated about people not liking his wife? People do have full right to like her or not to like her. She is not untouchable like no one is.
    He has to understand and respect other peoples taste and opinions.
    It is perfectly OK to like her, and it is perfectly OK to not to like her.
    He cannot expect that everybody will like her, or him. It is normal to not to like some people. Nothing wrong with that.
    He has to stop to tell people what to do, what to say = these are totalitarian methods, which we do not want here in the country of freedom.
    Also the more you force, the more resistance you will get.

    July 17, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  12. Kevin,FL

    FINALLY Mr Martin criticized Obama!

    July 17, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  13. TESAP

    I beg to differ. Taking children out of public schools is not helping public schools or the children. The problem is the system and if we simply ignore the system it will not get better. We (black people) do want the best education for our children, however it seems as though we are not willing to work for, JOIN THE PTA, PETITION FOR MORE MONEY, ETC.. We blame the schools.. not the parents.... we blame the environment not the community.
    I along with many others attended public school, went to college and then graduate school. Our parents demanded responsibility from the teachers and from us...... The problem now is no responsibility.....Vouchers won't help, participation will.

    BARACK THE VOTE PEOPLE................ 🙂

    July 17, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  14. Peter

    Honestly, I think part of the problem is that there is this growing American culture of ignornace... it is becoming fashionable to "not know..." and kids are (as someone posted) forced to pretend to be stupid to fit in. I see this in our general lack of knowledge (or outright fear) of foreign languages/cultures, history, geography, and the scientific method. This trickles down to students, and in particular to poor and/or minority students who see no advantage to being schooled.

    Here are some of my solutions: 1) putting more of a cultural emphasis on education/learning in America, 2) auditing and overhauling failing schools, 3) encouraging many types of education (not just prepping children to take standardized tests), and 4) encouraging parents and students to become more involved in the education system.

    However, school vouchers (much like the current debate over oil drilling) are just an illusory band-aid that ultimately will cause more problems than it fixes.

    July 17, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  15. Abbey

    Bravo Lisa F. the problem is the environment in which these failing schools exist. Poverty, broken homes, no stability or positive role models. I spent 31 yrs in public education and the best indicator of success is stability in the home. Sure, you will have the exception who succeeds no matter what, but the vast majority of these kids have no one to encourage them, send them on time, check homework, conference with teachers and show them by example what success is like. No amount free lunches, section 8, WIC and welfare is going to change the fundamental issue of ill-prepared parents who, despite lack of basics, continue to refuse take personal responsibilty for their families.

    July 17, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  16. Alan Takeall

    I think that Mr. Martin is wrong about this one. When Republicans call for school vouchers, voters should read that as an attempt by government to disinvest in public education. A quality public education, however, should be understood as a right that all Americans are entitled to. A quality basic public education for all people is not only good for individuals, it is good for society as a whole as it sets societal standards for literacy (a cornerstone of democracy), math, science, and cultural knowledge. The reason why so many African Americans support vouchers is because many have simply lost faith in a government that has continuously failed them and their children. Responsible citizens should never let government off the hook for not living up to the pledges that it makes to its constituency. People should draw a direct connection between Republicans’ attempts to disinvest in public education and Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security.

    July 17, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  17. DMAC in ID

    This should have been done yrs ago. Look at the terrible drop out rate in this country or kids that graduate and can't do basic math or barely read. This idea has been around for yrs. It is past it's time to enact it. Nothing over the last 30 yrs has worked. It is time to quit handicapping the kids and give them a better chance than we had.
    But his sure would mess up a lot of school districts. Maybe get their heads on where they belong.

    July 17, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  18. BelovedMother

    I'm sorry Roland, but, on this one I disagree. I am African American and I live in a the rural south. Vouchers will not benefit children in my neck of the woods. As it is the children out here has to leave home between 5:00-5:30 a.m. just to get to school between 7:30-8:00 a.m. They have to take the school buses to school. These parents do not have transporation to get their kids to a different school. If vouchers are approved take my word for it, they will not benefit my neck of the woods. I say we need to do something to improve all of the schools. I grew up in NJ and I had a great education. What happened? Here is something else to chew on, McCain and the Republicans could care less about my children, if vouchers are ever approved they will find a way to keep them in their neighborhoods. I was born at night but not LAST NIGHT!

    July 17, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  19. Turn about is fair play

    Funny how the very same people who were filthy, vulgar, vile in their hatred of Hillary... and who were supporting the rants of Michelle Obama and Rev Wright- all in the name of freedom of speech.

    Now, those SAME people are claiming that Obama and his wife should be respected and NOT criticized.

    What about paracticing what you preach? What about showing some respect to ALL Americans- including the Clintons, the McCains and their supporters?

    How about fair play- meaning it is okay to criticize the Obamas in the same exact same way that Hillary was carved and gutted and trashed by the media.

    July 17, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  20. California Gold

    The voucher system does not mean a private school with families paying hefty tuition will take you. They are still a private school and exempt from many mandates. Our private schools are mostly filled with wealthy families and families who will pay the tuition rather than have their kid "stigmatized" because of their special needs, specifically ADD. Private schools thrive because of money. Vouchers don't balance their budgets. Sounds like a good but fails to fix the public school problem.

    July 17, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  21. LaTreetha E. Sharpley

    Roland, I disagree with you. I am a retired teacher who was educated in the public school system and also taught in the system. My parents many years ago moved into a neighborhood so that my brother, sisters and I would have the advantage of a good public education. I worked, we finished college and went on with professional careers. I believe that the only way every child in this nation gets the same opportunity that was afforded my siblings and myself, is through a good public education.
    Don't start to believe that my having voucher will allow students to enter many schools. The hue of their skin, the neighborhood where they live, their last name will stop many from such an education.
    The only way is through a good local, state and federal public education system

    July 17, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  22. Jeff in Hampshire, IL

    Because EVERY child deserves a good education in a safe environment. Not just the ones whose parents are articulate enough to go throught the process of applying for vouchers. Vouchers are a band-aid only afforded to those who's parents are thoughtful enough. We all know that anyone can be a parent. Kids shouldn't have to suffer because of that. Fix all the schools and hold them and teachers accountable.

    July 17, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  23. hypocrit

    Obama sure did trash Bill Clinton and his presidency and his actions.

    I thought Obama thought that spouses were OFF limits.

    Obama is a big hypocrit- do unto others but they can not do the same unto me.

    July 17, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  24. Not an Obama supporter

    How about fixing the problems with public schools instead of running away from them? This is the problem with public schools. Everyone is always looking for alternative instead of taking on the problem. But it takes effort from everyone, including the PARENTS. What are the parents of these inner-city and problematic schools doing to bring about solutions? Vouchers are not the answer. It will be a dividing factor of public schooling.

    July 17, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  25. Laura

    I'm a teacher and a mother. Taking money out of the public schools and giving it to private schools...bad idea. It's a destructive cycle. Good schools need resources. Take money from them, and parents will not want to send their children to these schools, then these schools will lose their resources and so on and so forth. Public education would best be served by fully funding it and giving it what it need to thrive.

    July 17, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
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