Louisiana's bold bid to privatize schools

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Louisiana's bold bid to privatize schools

By Stephanie Simon
June 1 | Fri Jun 1, 2012 6:04pm EDT

(Reuters) - Louisiana is embarking on the nation's boldest experiment in privatizing public education, with the state preparing to shift tens of millions in tax dollars out of the public schools to pay private industry, businesses owners and church pastors to educate children.

Starting this fall, thousands of poor and middle-class kids will get vouchers covering the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools across Louisiana, including small, Bible-based church schools.

The following year, students of any income will be eligible for mini-vouchers that they can use to pay a range of private-sector vendors for classes and apprenticeships not offered in traditional public schools. The money can go to industry trade groups, businesses, online schools and tutors, among others.

Every time a student receives a voucher of either type, his local public school will lose a chunk of state funding.

"We are changing the way we deliver education," said Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican who muscled the plan through the legislature this spring over fierce objections from Democrats and teachers unions. "We are letting parents decide what's best for their children, not government."

The concept of opening public schools to competition from the private sector has been widely promoted in recent years by well-funded education reform groups.

Of the plans so far put forward, Louisiana's plan is by far the broadest. This month, eligible families, including those with incomes nearing $60,000 a year, are submitting applications for vouchers to state-approved private schools.

That list includes some of the most prestigious schools in the state, which offer a rich menu of advanced placement courses, college-style seminars and lush grounds. The top schools, however, have just a handful of slots open. The Dunham School in Baton Rouge, for instance, has said it will accept just four voucher students, all kindergartners. As elsewhere, they will be picked in a lottery.

Far more openings are available at smaller, less prestigious religious schools, including some that are just a few years old and others that have struggled to attract tuition-paying students.

The school willing to accept the most voucher students -- 314 -- is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend most of the day watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms. Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such chemistry or composition.

The Upperroom Bible Church Academy in New Orleans, a bunker-like building with no windows or playground, also has plenty of slots open. It seeks to bring in 214 voucher students, worth up to $1.8 million in state funding.

At Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, pastor-turned-principal Marie Carrier hopes to secure extra space to enroll 135 voucher students, though she now has room for just a few dozen. Her first- through eighth-grade students sit in cubicles for much of the day and move at their own pace through Christian workbooks, such as a beginning science text that explains "what God made" on each of the six days of creation. They are not exposed to the theory of evolution.

"We try to stay away from all those things that might confuse our children," Carrier said.

Other schools approved for state-funded vouchers use social studies texts warning that liberals threaten global prosperity; Bible-based math books that don't cover modern concepts such as set theory; and biology texts built around refuting evolution.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that vouchers can be used for religious education so long as the state is not promoting any one faith but letting parents choose where to enroll their children.

In Louisiana, Superintendent of Education John White said state officials have at one time or another visited all 120 schools in the voucher program and approved their curricula, including specific texts. He said the state plans more "due diligence" over the summer, including additional site visits to assess capacity.

In general, White said he will leave it to principals to be sure their curriculum covers all subjects kids need and leave it to parents to judge the quality of each private school on the list.

That infuriates the teachers union, which is weighing a lawsuit accusing the state of improperly diverting funds from public schools to private programs of questionable value.

"Because it's private, it's considered to be inherently better," said Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. "From a consumer perspective, it's buyer beware."

To date, private schools have not had to give their students state standardized tests, so there's no straightforward way for parents to judge their performance. Starting next year, any student on a voucher will have to take the tests; each private school must report individual results to parents and aggregate results to the state.

The 47-page bill setting up the voucher program does not outline any consequences for private schools that get poor test scores. Instead, it requires the superintendent of schools to come up with an "accountability system" by Aug. 1. Once he does, the system cannot be altered except by legislative vote.

White would not say whether he is prepared to pull vouchers from private schools that do poorly on tests.

He pointed out that many kids applying for vouchers are now enrolled in dismal public schools where two-thirds of the students can't read or do math at grade level and half will drop out before they graduate high school. Given that track record, he argues it's worth sending a portion of the roughly $3.5 billion a year the state spends on education to private schools that may have developed different ways to reach kids.

"To me, it's a moral outrage that the government would say, 'We know what's best for your child,'" White said. "Who are we to tell parents we know better?"

That message resonates with Terrica Dotson, whose 12-year-old son, Tyler, attends public school in Baton Rouge. He makes the honor roll, but his mom says he isn't challenged in math and science. This week she was out visiting private schools. "I want him to have the education he needs," she said.

The state has run a pilot voucher program for several years in New Orleans and is pleased with the results. The proportion of kids scoring at or above grade level jumped 7 percentage points among voucher students this year, far outpacing the citywide rise of 3 percentage points, state officials said.

Studies of other voucher programs in the U.S. have shown mixed results.

In Louisiana the vouchers are available to any low- to middle-income student who now attends a public school where at least 25 percent of students test below grade level.

Households qualify with annual income up to 250 percent of the poverty line, or $57,625 for a family of four.


Statewide, 380,000 kids, more than half the total student population of 700,000, are eligible for vouchers. There are only about 5,000 slots open in private schools for the coming year, but state officials expect that to ramp up quickly.

Officials have not estimated the price tag of these programs but expect the state will save money in the long run, because they believe the private sector can educate kids more cheaply than public schools.

Whether those savings will materialize is unclear.

By law, the value of each voucher can't exceed the sum the state would spend educating that child in public school -- on average, $8,800 a year. Small private schools often charge as little as $3,000 to $5,000 a year.

Yet at some private schools with low tuition, administrators contacted by Reuters said they would also ask the state to cover additional, unspecified fees, which would bring the cost to taxpayers close to the $8,800 cap. The law requires the state to cover both tuition and fees.


In the separate mini-voucher program due to launch in 2013, students across Louisiana, regardless of income, will be able to tap the state treasury to pay for classes that are offered by private vendors and not available in their regular public schools.

White said the state hopes to spur private industry to offer vocational programs and apprenticeships in exchange for vouchers worth up to $1,300 per student per class. Students can also use the mini-vouchers to design their own curriculum, tapping state funds to pay for online classes or private tutors if they're not satisfied with their public school's offerings.

State officials will review every private-sector class before approving it. They are still working out how to assess rigor and effectiveness.

The state has not done a formal fiscal analysis, but public school advocates say subtracting the costs of vouchers from their budgets is unfair because they have the same fixed costs -- from utilities to custodial services -- whether a child is in the building four hours a day or six. White responds that the state is not in the business of funding buildings; it's funding education.

While public schools fear fiscal disaster, many private school administrators see the voucher program as an economic lifeboat.

Valeria Thompson runs the Louisiana New School Academy in Baton Rouge, which prides itself on getting troubled students through middle and high school. Families have struggled to pay tuition, she said, and enrollment is down to about 60 kids.

"We're a good school," Thompson said, "but we've been struggling fiscally."

The vouchers have brought in a flood of new applicants and the promise of steady income from taxpayers. Thompson enrolled 17 new students in two days last month and hopes to bring in as many as 130. "I'm so grateful," she said. "You can't imagine how grateful."

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/01/us-education-vouchers-idUSL1E8H10AG20120601
Guess they had to do something...



Great question:
Officials have not estimated the price tag of these programs but expect the state will save money in the long run, because they believe the private sector can educate kids more cheaply than public schools.

Whether those savings will materialize is unclear.
And here's your answer:
Yet at some private schools with low tuition, administrators contacted by Reuters said they would also ask the state to cover additional, unspecified fees, which would bring the cost to taxpayers close to the $8,800 cap. The law requires the state to cover both tuition and fees.
Oh, you mean the gubment's paying for it? Price just went up!
 

domelogic

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In the end wont it save them money just based on pensions and healthcare? If all the states addressed those two issues with gov employees we wouldnt be in this situation.
 

The Godfather

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infograph related
 

whiskeyguy

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Because privatizing prisons has worked out so well.......

Good Luck Bro!
Yeah, the last thing we want are private schools that try to keep children enrolled at all costs.:action-sm

The public school system is a fucking joke. This might end up being a joke also, but at least they're giving it a shot. It will definitely limit the power of unions, and by creating competition you'll have schools fighting to both provide the best education and do so at the cheapest price.
 

BIV

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Yeah, the last thing we want are private schools that try to keep children enrolled at all costs.:action-sm

The public school system is a fucking joke. This might end up being a joke also, but at least they're giving it a shot. It will definitely limit the power of unions, and by creating competition you'll have schools fighting to both provide the best education and do so at the cheapest price.
It'll give state funding to idgets who want to teach that Jesus rode dinosaurs like it is history.
 

MayrMeninoCrash

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Yeah, the last thing we want are private schools that try to keep children enrolled at all costs.:action-sm

The public school system is a fucking joke. This might end up being a joke also, but at least they're giving it a shot. It will definitely limit the power of unions, and by creating competition you'll have schools fighting to both provide the best education and do so at the cheapest price.
I've got a couple problems with vouchers. First of all, wouldn't using taxpayer dollars on a parochial (religous) education be a violation of the First Amendment? I think the number is about 85% of all private schools have some sort of religious curriculum. While you might not care if some Catholic or Baptist schools get some taxpayer dollars, you can bet there will be an uproar if Muslim Sharia schools start popping up everywhere.

Second, the problem with vouchers are they create an artificial market. Right now they seem like a good deal since public and private school costs are about the same, but what happens when demand for a product outstrips supply? You end up with an inflated market for education on all levels.

Finally, this most likely won't lead to public schools becoming more competitive to attract students. They will likely be the "dumping ground" for the students unable to afford the difference in costs, and the reduced amount of available tax dollars going to public schools will lead to an even shittier environment than already exists there.
 

whiskeyguy

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I've got a couple problems with vouchers. First of all, wouldn't using taxpayer dollars on a parochial (religous) education be a violation of the First Amendment? I think the number is about 85% of all private schools have some sort of religious curriculum. While you might not care if some Catholic or Baptist schools get some taxpayer dollars, you can bet there will be an uproar if Muslim Sharia schools start popping up everywhere.
No, because children aren't forced to go to those schools. In fact, even with vouchers here in California, it often is still a sacrifice because it costs more than the vouchers cover... it would be personally cheaper (not collectively cheaper) to send kids to public schools, since you're paying those taxes anyway. More options are almost always a good thing.

Second, the problem with vouchers are they create an artificial market. Right now they seem like a good deal since public and private school costs are about the same, but what happens when demand for a product outstrips supply? You end up with an inflated market for education on all levels.
If the demand for private schools goes up (thus making the demand for public schools go down), you simply move more funds to the private sector. Cuts jobs and services in the public sector to reflect demand. The initial transition probably would be expensive, but over time I absolutely believe the private sector can operate more efficiently than the public sector.

Finally, this most likely won't lead to public schools becoming more competitive to attract students. They will likely be the "dumping ground" for the students unable to afford the difference in costs, and the reduced amount of available tax dollars going to public schools will lead to an even shittier environment than already exists there.
The ultimate goal should be to make public schools more "privatized"... they will act more like a business in that they have to budget more efficiently based on demand. Their monopoly would be eliminated, which means compete or fail. You would have a point here if public school were already great places to educate children, but they're not. I think it costs around $10,000 per student, per year to educate a child. That seems obnoxiously high for the education they are getting, and a lot of that is going to inflated administrative costs, salaries, pensions, & other benefits for the teachers.

Privatizing schools will also eliminate the flawed tenure system. In some states, a teacher receives tenure after two years, which is ridiculous. The teachers should have to compete for their jobs as much as the schools would be competing for students.
 

MayrMeninoCrash

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No, because children aren't forced to go to those schools. In fact, even with vouchers here in California, it often is still a sacrifice because it costs more than the vouchers cover... it would be personally cheaper (not collectively cheaper) to send kids to public schools, since you're paying those taxes anyway. More options are almost always a good thing.
Children aren't forced to go to a religious school, but in many areas, that may be the only option. Not every town has a wide selection of private schools to choose from. Should the Catholic church (for example) be entitled to a big influx of cash courtesy of the Government, simply because they are the only private game in town?

If the demand for private schools goes up (thus making the demand for public schools go down), you simply move more funds to the private sector. Cuts jobs and services in the public sector to reflect demand. The initial transition probably would be expensive, but over time I absolutely believe the private sector can operate more efficiently than the public sector.
Then there needs to be some accountability. Private schools are not held to the same standard as public schools, which may account for some of the differences. Also private schools have the ability to accept or reject students based on arbitrary criteria. Public schools do not have this ability.

The ultimate goal should be to make public schools more "privatized"... they will act more like a business in that they have to budget more efficiently based on demand. Their monopoly would be eliminated, which means compete or fail. You would have a point here if public school were already great places to educate children, but they're not. I think it costs around $10,000 per student, per year to educate a child. That seems obnoxiously high for the education they are getting, and a lot of that is going to inflated administrative costs, salaries, pensions, & other benefits for the teachers.

Privatizing schools will also eliminate the flawed tenure system. In some states, a teacher receives tenure after two years, which is ridiculous. The teachers should have to compete for their jobs as much as the schools would be competing for students.
Again this will never happen because public schools do not have the luxury to decide what students attend their schools. Public schools must be flexible and the curriculum needs to be managed to accommodate a wide variety of students and backgrounds, from honor roll to future inmates. This has nothing to do with "tenure" or "unions" and everything to do with the nature of the beast that is society today.
 

whiskeyguy

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Children aren't forced to go to a religious school, but in many areas, that may be the only option. Not every town has a wide selection of private schools to choose from. Should the Catholic church (for example) be entitled to a big influx of cash courtesy of the Government, simply because they are the only private game in town?
Then go to a public school. The cash itself is from taxpayers, and if they would rather spend it on a private Catholic institution than a public school, they should have that option. Government funds belong to us, not the government, and if there are alternatives to government options, we should have the ability to utilize them.

Then there needs to be some accountability. Private schools are not held to the same standard as public schools, which may account for some of the differences. Also private schools have the ability to accept or reject students based on arbitrary criteria. Public schools do not have this ability.
Private schools are often held to a higher standard than public schools, because they have to compete for students/money. Also, if private schools have certain criteria, kids will have to work hard to get into private schools if they are motivated, or settle for a public school. Is it better to have a bunch of private schools with motivated children receiving a great education, or a bunch of public schools where everyone is receiving a sub-par (and still more expensive) education?

Again this will never happen because public schools do not have the luxury to decide what students attend their schools. Public schools must be flexible and the curriculum needs to be managed to accommodate a wide variety of students and backgrounds, from honor roll to future inmates. This has nothing to do with "tenure" or "unions" and everything to do with the nature of the beast that is society today.
Then wouldn't it make sense to split up the demand to educate among different organizations? Private schools can have certain criteria based on motivation/intelligence, and public schools can focus more on the children who aren't motivated and/or learn slower. This just reduces the financial hardships associated with private schools... meaning families can focus more on qualifying for a private education based on their children's capabilities.

Here's a simplified example. If you have $5,000 a year voucher, you pick a list of schools and apply to them. If you can't get into any of the private schools, you give your voucher to the public school, and they educate your child. Or if you're a die hard atheist and there are only religious private schools, you send your kid to the public school. Now the least capable kids will still be in the public school system (where they are anyway), but the most capable kids won't be held down by the public school system based solely on financial restraints. They enter into a market where schools are competing against each other, thus trying to provide the best service at the most affordable price.
 

MagicBob

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Officials have not estimated the price tag of these programs but expect the state will save money in the long run, because they believe the private sector can educate kids more cheaply than public schools.
I cant ever recall private schools being characterized as "cheap".

Small private schools often charge as little as $3,000 to $5,000 a year.
huh... my bad.

Yet at some private schools with low tuition, administrators contacted by Reuters said they would also ask the state to cover additional, unspecified fees, which would bring the cost to taxpayers close to the $8,800 cap. The law requires the state to cover both tuition and fees.
book fees, turning lights on fees, not molesting MY child fees (only at catholic schools :D)...
 

Don the Radio Guy

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you can bet there will be an uproar if Muslim Sharia schools start popping up everywhere.
Sure didn't take long for that old gag to come out.

Second, the problem with vouchers are they create an artificial market. Right now they seem like a good deal since public and private school costs are about the same, but what happens when demand for a product outstrips supply? You end up with an inflated market for education on all levels.
This is a real concern. Look at what subsidies have done to college tuition. I'm not sure how to avoid this without completely privatizing education.

Finally, this most likely won't lead to public schools becoming more competitive to attract students. They will likely be the "dumping ground" for the students unable to afford the difference in costs, and the reduced amount of available tax dollars going to public schools will lead to an even shittier environment than already exists there.
Too bad. We gotta do something to save the kids that can be saved.
 

Begbie

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As long as these kids know that they can't criticize anything about the President because he's President, but they can bash a Presidential candidate for picking on some kid when he was in high school...we're good.
 

whiskeyguy

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I cant ever recall private schools being characterized as "cheap".



huh... my bad.
Private schools don't seem cheap because you pay out of pocket, unlike public schools which are funded out of government accounts (but we're still footing the bill). Like I said before, I think it cost on average $10,000 per student, per year in American public schools. Private schools can educate kids for less money, and probably provide a better education.
 

Party Rooster

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Whoever put the damned text covering the fucking data info is fucking stupid or from Louisisana or Mississippi.
Fixed.

I've got a couple problems with vouchers. First of all, wouldn't using taxpayer dollars on a parochial (religous) education be a violation of the First Amendment?
SCOTUS has ruled that it's not, and I don't really have a problem with it. Will love it when madrassas start popping up in Louisiana looking for their cut.

There still needs to be some sort of standardized state-approved curriculum. To have a kid graduate from high school without ever being introduced to at least the "theory" of evolution in 2012 is unacceptable. And here's your biology curriculum...
http://www.wackbag.com/showthread.php/143187-WTFChristianBiology
 

MayrMeninoCrash

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Here's a simplified example. If you have $5,000 a year voucher, you pick a list of schools and apply to them. If you can't get into any of the private schools, you give your voucher to the public school, and they educate your child. Or if you're a die hard atheist and there are only religious private schools, you send your kid to the public school. Now the least capable kids will still be in the public school system (where they are anyway), but the most capable kids won't be held down by the public school system based solely on financial restraints. They enter into a market where schools are competing against each other, thus trying to provide the best service at the most affordable price.
All of this assumes that you have several potential private schools with plenty of openings for new students. I live in a town of 60k and I believe there is one Montessori school (that I think goes to 5th grade) and a Christian school that goes to 8th grade. I'm guessing you being out in the sticks don't even have that many to choose from. How does a voucher program help out? Seems like it would just be a handout to the parents who are already able to afford private schooling, thus defeating the purpose of vouchers "creating a level playing field". Perhaps in time the market might dictate that more private schools open in an area to serve the needs of the community, but by that time the market fundamentals for an education might be skewed.
 

whiskeyguy

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All of this assumes that you have several potential private schools with plenty of openings for new students. I live in a town of 60k and I believe there is one Montessori school (that I think goes to 5th grade) and a Christian school that goes to 8th grade. I'm guessing you being out in the sticks don't even have that many to choose from. How does a voucher program help out? Seems like it would just be a handout to the parents who are already able to afford private schooling, thus defeating the purpose of vouchers "creating a level playing field". Perhaps in time the market might dictate that more private schools open in an area to serve the needs of the community, but by that time the market fundamentals for an education might be skewed.
1) I have an issue calling it a "hand out" to people who can already afford private schools. Those people are also the ones most likely paying property, state, and federal taxes. Hand outs are giving something to someone who doesn't contribute (ironically this voucher system is actually giving a type of hand out - the chance to go to a private school - to poor families). If anything receiving a voucher is more like a refund on services not rendered, since they aren't using the public school system for which they are paying for (in addition to the cost of the private education their children receive).

2) You're right in that there might be a rocky transition phase. However, eventually schools will realize the income potential, and expand to meet demand. If you have a kid going into high school next fall, you may very well not find a spot in a private school to send them to, and they will be stuck in public schools. However, in ten years it will change so that more spots in private schools are available. We can't be afraid to make somewhat drastic changes to our failing systems... it's difficult to do, but better than sticking with a failing system simply because it doesn't "rock the boat".

3) People like me in a rural area would definitely have issues finding private schools, because the demand is low... even with vouchers. However, that just means that the majority of people will continue going to a public school, and that public school receives funding based on enrollment... so essentially the exact same system we have now. Also public schools in rural areas like mine are often better than schools in cities anyway, so people like my parents may still be content sending their kids to one.

4) The main point here is you should have a choice as to where you send your kid, and if you don't use the public school system your child's portion of those funds should go to their actual education. And this does level the playing field, because currently only rich people can send their kids to private schools... the people that subsidize public schools AND spend disposable income on private schools. Now people who are poorer and don't have that option will still get the "free" education from the taxpayers, yet they can get that education from wherever they want (as long as the kids meet the qualifications of that private school), and will probably receive a better education at a value compared to public schools.

Our current system sucks, why not have the balls to experiment with something new?
 
Apr 30, 2011
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Regardless of how we try to fix it, there is no doubt that federal, state and other local governments are botching education. Unions are certainly part of the problem, last year watched a handful of docs on netflix on teachers unions and some cases of some great charter schools.

Waiting for Superman
The Cartel
The Lottery

I would imagine that Liberal/Progressive leaning people probably disagree with most of whats presented in these but its hard to deny that we need to start to get a grip on our piss poor public education.
 

Your_Moms_Box

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#21
For every good Private/Charter school, there are 10 horrible ones.

I know in delaware there are at least a dozen charter schools that are essentially get rich quick schemes by "pastors" in certain "communities"


Unless private/charter schools are held to the same standards as public schools this idea is bullshit.
 

whiskeyguy

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#22
For every good Private/Charter school, there are 10 horrible ones.

I know in delaware there are at least a dozen charter schools that are essentially get rich quick schemes by "pastors" in certain "communities"


Unless private/charter schools are held to the same standards as public schools this idea is bullshit.
I have no problem with requiring minimal curriculum standards set by the state... use some type of accreditation process.
 

DanaReevesLungs

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#23
My cousin is flipping her shit because of this. She learned about a month ago that her precious little angels Parochial school will be accepting these vouchers. Tuition for her two dipshit kids to that school is $10,000 a year per child. So, because she can't stand having her children mixed in with the inner city youth, she's actively searching out a school who won't accept the vouchers.
 

whiskeyguy

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My cousin is flipping her shit because of this. She learned about a month ago that her precious little angels Parochial school will be accepting these vouchers. Tuition for her two dipshit kids to that school is $10,000 a year per child. So, because she can't stand having her children mixed in with the inner city youth, she's actively searching out a school who won't accept the vouchers.
She could just go to a school that accepts the vouchers, yet costs $10,000 more than they're worth.
 

Party Rooster

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#25
If you have a kid going into high school next fall, you may very well not find a spot in a private school to send them to, and they will be stuck in public schools. However, in ten years it will change so that more spots in private schools are available.
You think Mayr's kids are going to take ten years to get out of high school? :action-sm

And this does level the playing field, because currently only rich people can send their kids to private schools
CLASS WARFARE!!! :icon_cool