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. Grandmother of 5

    Mr. Martin, I regret reading that you feel vouchers are part of the solution to our national education mess. All of our public schools should be brought up to (across-the-board) standards that requires them (K-12) to be structurally sound and safe, environmentally inspiring (like painted walls without holes in them), have new or barely used books (per subject), amply supplied libraries and reference material, outdoor areas for exercise (like recess) qualified teachers (all certified), and pay scales that make them more competitive. The condition of our school system is based primarily on revenue generated from property (residential and commercial) value/taxes, and other resources within each community, and the support of some government funding (local, state and federal). Why is it, when those resources (mostly higher income individuals/industry) leave the community or are dramatically reduced, those that remain (mostly lower income individuals) are expected to do and achieve the same as others did when more revenue was available. Everyone is responsible for this mess (you, me, parents, school boards and the governments). It makes me sick to my stomach to see how we’ve abandoned our children. Every child in this United States of America is ours and represents us, and truly deserves the best we can offer. Let us not forget, that we are only as strong as our weakest link. So please don't use the vouchers as a scapegoat. Thank you.

    July 17, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  2. whythink

    The real problem with the educational system today is the unequal distribution of money. In NY there are 2 districts relatively near each other and the starting pay in district a is double that of district b. What happens is new teachers take the job in district b – the poorer district – and then ASAP move to district a. This means district b is dealing with constant turnover and young, inexperienced teachers.

    In addition, district b is located in a poor urban area so the students of district b are dealing with the stresses of growing up in poverty and then attending a poverty school.

    Instead of vouchers why not equal out the funds for each district? Currently districts are funded largely based on property value – poor districts don't get as much money. The same two districts in NY – district a spends double per pupil than district b. Oh and guess what district has more success with fundraising? District a.

    Currently our schools are just as segregated as in the 1950's; so race is an issue. Poor, inner city school suffer the most.

    John McCain obviously doesn't get the above FACTS!

    July 17, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  3. Sharon

    Oh my – Roland Martin criticized Obama. Mark that down – it probably won't happen again. I believe Roland Martin is wrong – We need to fix our education system. We are getting further behind – look at the drop-out rate. It is going up. We are behind in math and the sciences. It needs to be overhauled.

    July 17, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  4. The Bu

    You know I love your commentary, but the answer is not to allow people to leave "failing" schools necessarily as it is to FIX those failing schools so the students don't have to leave. Give the inner city and failing schools the funding they need. There is no reason why schools in inner city Chicago don't have text books. It's about money, not running off to another school or school district.

    July 17, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  5. whythink

    Our public education system is suppose to be equal...IT IS NOT!

    I suggest everyone read the book "The Shame of the Nation" by Jonathan Kozol. He does a much better job of outlining the specific injustices taking place in our educational system TODAY

    My disappointment with this, as a teacher, is neither candidate has the knowledge or respect for what true professional educators do. If either did, the discussion would be much different.

    July 17, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  6. Sheri

    Thank you Roland. Everyone makes mistakes and I think you're the best commentator.

    OBAMA 08

    July 17, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  7. disagree

    Are you asking to fix the school or are you asking for handouts?

    Everyone must be held accountable but handouts is not the way to do it.

    July 17, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  8. Typical White Person

    OMG – Hades must of frozen over this morning because I'm agreeing with this guy for the first time ever.

    However, no amount of private schooling will make up for the fact that a lot of inner-city parents don't stress the importance of education, reading, studying, homework, etc. If they did, their children could still get a good education.

    It isn't the "schools" that are failing, it's the kids in them. There is no excuse for the vast majority of children to not be reading at grade level. If parents limited video/TV time and made their kids do their homework the kids' achievement scores would skyrocket.

    Don't blame the schools. Blame the parents!

    July 17, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  9. PUMA-SF

    Obama's education plan is no different then Bush's. He believes in vouchers and merit pay for teachers. Anyone who knows or lives with a teacher as I do knows that neither of these are good options. Obama is out of touch and he is also a liar and a hypocrite. Anyone still supporting him has junk for brains.

    My vote will go to McCain if he is on the top of the ticket. He is just the presumptuous nominee right now. Anything can happen between now and August.

    Puma Power

    July 17, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  10. Independent in Iowa

    I don't believe it! You actually disagree with Obama on something! Now this is news!

    July 17, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  11. Vegas Barbie for Obama

    Have to disagree that the best way to get kids good education is by pulling them from public schools. Part of the "education" children get in public schools is the socialization and "learning to learn", learning to make good decisions. I believe these options are removed or at least severely limited when parents supplant kids from their peers, neighbors, communities, to put them in charter schools. To my thinking, and from what I've seen to-date, charter schools smack of homegeneous-ness, and no one ever learns much from folks who are exactly like them. The answer is not abandoning the public schools, but investing in them! It will take some time, but improving schools could become a community's "project" if they saw the government/powers-that-be investing some in their schools and their neighborhoods.

    July 17, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  12. Truth

    Vouchers allow ignorant parents to send their children to schools with empirically inferior science programs that endorse "Intelligent Design". This is damaging to the minds of our youth in that it distorts the scientific method and allows for grey areas in their understanding of the world around us.

    The education of our children is too important to allow ignorant parents to have their children taught such foolishness, and that is exactly what vouchers are for: Enabling parental ignorance.

    Creationism is a joke and Intelligent Design is not science. It is a travesty that we do not have a comprehensive science program to launch our youth into being the designers of tomorrow's dreams.

    July 17, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  13. The Voice

    Vouchers for private religious schools is a scam! Alot of these schools don't even have qualified teachers. Just because you teach the prayer and the bible it don't make you qualified. This is all the same faith based scam Bush has pushed.

    Roland is dillusional to think that running away from the problem is a solution. Maybe the goverment should start investing in the infrastructure of inner schools and give "everyone" a chance.

    This is all a croc!

    July 17, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  14. Typical White Person

    angry angry hippo July 17th, 2008 2:30 pm ET wrote:

    school choice – YES. but public schools. giving money to religious schools is just wrong.

    Wrong for you, maybe, and that's okay as religious freedom (including total freedom from religion) is guaranteed in the constitution.

    However, some of us disagree and prefer to have a religious perspective there to reinforce moral standards. My son goes to a Catholic School because they are very strict and don't tolerate a lot of the behavior that you see in public schools. They have next to no disruptions and the playground is peaceful.

    July 17, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  15. John Okon

    Roland for VP

    July 17, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  16. Michelle Obama

    Even I'm not voting for Barack. But don't tell him. He thinks he's special.

    July 17, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  17. Grand Rapids, MI

    Martin, ever watched that movie "Lean On Me"? Joe Clark, the principal was brought in to a failing public school. He challenged the teachers, the students, and the board. The rest is history. Tests improved and this is a true story type movie. Improve failing inner city schools by providing new facilities with up-to-date technology to be at par with any suburban school. Challenge students and teachers and parents. Believe me, every public school will succeed if you do that. Taking money in form of vouchers exacerbates the problem and solves nothing. I respectfully disagree with you.

    July 17, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  18. Val, Atlanta, Ga

    H Charles, I am a Black American Woman and if I didn't know any better I would take what you said as an insult, I was always at PTA, and teachers meetings,Boyscouts and his baseball games but it sounds like from what you said you have a lot more experience and not showing up for your kids PTA etc. and don't put all Black Americans not African Americans in the same boat because it was a lot of whites that did not show up for PTA or Boyscouts I know because I offered a few of the kids(white) a ride home.

    July 17, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  19. Vince in NC

    I've always felt that the Democratic party is on the wrong side of this issue.

    Vouchers doesn't mean to stop funding public schools. A voucher need not cover the entire cost of a private education, just part. Also vouchers can be structured to only go to middle and lower income families. Those families would have to pay some of the costs for private education.

    It gives people a choice, it creates competition for public schools, it gives lower income people the opportunity to attend private schools.

    July 17, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  20. Todd

    Here is what no one is talking about. Private school don't have any standard they need to follow, this includes hiring teachers. People who teach at private schools do not need any training to become teachers, they can hire any one off the street.

    July 17, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |

    Don't worry Roland Martin, Obama has changed his stance on every issue. Just wait.....he will change his mind on this one too. It's just a matter of time. He'll say WHATEVER it takes to get elected! Don't forget he is called the flip flop king for a reason.

    Roland, Is the Kool-aid effect wearing off? Someone just called looking for you, saying you're missed at the Obama cult line. LOL

    July 17, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  22. Ben - Portland

    The real danger to the educational system is privatization, and not the traditional private schools we think of and the vouchers you'd use to pay for it. Rather, there will be a movement for municipalities to hire private companies to run schools modeled on public schools, much like states have increased dependence on private prison companies. We’ve seen that the privatization of public systems fail, yet the privatization movement is steadily gaining momentum.

    When it starts to come up as an option in your city, think about the private prisons, and the private contractors in Iraq, like Blackwater or Halliburton. They’re only motivated by profit; although their press releases and company mottos stress the “commitment” they have to their projects, they’re only concerned with making money. The prisoners and solders are not humans to them, they’re units. Our children are their next product. They won’t care about the education our kids receive any more than Halliburton cares about our soldiers.

    July 17, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  23. Tommy,California

    Lets call it what it is, school vouchers are a governmental financed 'white flight' way out of the intergrated public school system. America doesnt need them. I dont like my kid being around unmotivated kids either.Besides they come in all colors. Why dont we just fix and fund what we got, hold teachers and students accountable, and all live together as AMERICANS!
    I 'd bet the farm that if vouchers were given out , those elite schools you want me to pay for with my tax money , would start REDLINING the enrollies! All us AMERICANS need to stop this ugly devisive behavior.

    July 17, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  24. Brennan, Seattle WA

    The problem with the voucher system is that it will not fix the education system for the average family. It will only save money for higher income families and allow a few more middle income kids to go to private school.

    The voucher in many cases would not cover the whole cost of education at a private school. So what would happen is that those that could afford to pay a little extra would move their kids to the private school. On the other hand those that could not afford a little extra would be forced to leave their kids in the now resource deprived public school. This would only enhance the wealth gap crisis that we have in this country which would further divide us into the haves and have nots.

    July 17, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  25. Dr. J

    Vouchers are not the answer. All they do is pay for a student to fail only to come back to the same school where the child left. Why pay for a childs voucher only to have to pay for him or her again to come back to the same failing schools? Fix the schools.

    July 17, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
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