YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Vouchers for Aid to Pupils

December 27, 1985

I readily agree with The Times' assessment that low-income parents are able to judge intelligently for themselves. I would apply the concept to their ability to select with reasonable reliability the kind of schooling they want for their children, the schooling they believe to be in their and their children's best interest. The Times in its "Phony Offer" editorial (November 17) applied the concept to suggest low-income parents reject a voucher proposed by the U.S. Office of Education.

The Times' contention that parents need protection because the proposal is a phony offer rests on two premises which are, in my judgment, self-resolving. If low-income families actually do have few real alternatives (to public schools) which are willing to accept their children, and if it is likewise true that a $600 voucher is uselessly small, then the vouchers will be redeemed only in public schools, which The Times seems to favor.

If, on the other hand, the premises are faulty (notice, not fraudulent!) and there are schools willing to accept children bearing $600 vouchers and furthermore are willing either to accept a reasonably small supplement which the parents can actually pay or forgive the difference through some sort of scholarship, then the parents have more than a theoretical choice, and their judgment as to the best schooling for their youngsters is respected.

The Times wishes to preserve the present form of federal assistance to low-income pupils. If its premises are correct, there is no danger of dismantling the present program. If its premises are incorrect, the worst that could happen would be that the funds be redistributed according to the needs as perceived by parents (rather than legislators, school administrators such as I, or even The Times), and the present program in public schools would be rescaled to proportions dictated by parent choice.

I find that your position does not place as much real confidence in the judgment of low-income parents as it might. If it did, parents would have little need to be protected from the proposed voucher. Finally, I question your use of such rhetorical language as phony and fraud. The language, which impugns motives, does not serve to clarify the issue and suggests a lack of confidence in your own underlying argument.


Los Angeles

Mihan is superintendent of elementary schools of the Department of Education of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Times Articles