Lobby Gets a Boost
vouchers, a controversial subject, is under public scrutiny.
Court decisions bring appeals, and lobbies work passionately
debating the pros and cons of funneling public money to private
schools. David Brennan, a successful Ohio entrepreneur, is an
example of an individual who has thrust himself into the education
arena determined to see his side–the acceptance of vouchers–succeed.
He explains that his interest in education was kindled by workers
in his factories who were nearly illiterate and unable to participate
in activities that required problem-solving skills. Recognizing
a challenge and believing that educated employees would be more
productive and better for his businesses, he set up schools
for his workers and their families. His initiative evolved into
the Home Schooling Network, which utilizes the Internet and
offers several thousand courses. True to his entrepeneurial
spirit, he established a company, Wicat, to produce educational
software and went on to create charter school academies for
young children. High school dropouts can attend his Lifeskills
Center schools which allow for holding a job while gradually
“testing out” of various subjects and earning a
diploma. His company, White Hat Management, runs his schools,
all charter, for profit, a principle he vehemently defends as
being a motivation for producing quality. “Non-profit
attracts people not interested in being best,” he maintains.
The state of Ohio pays about $6,000 per pupil in charter schools.
are a compromise for not giving vouchers, a Republican-Democratic
issue,” he claims, but “vouchers are here to stay
and will grow, but will not be universal, especially in cities.”
Cities will benefit from a broad range of options, he advises.
Brennan prefers vouchers to charters because they have fewer
limitations and are “safer and more flexible.” Voucher
schools need not have standardized tests or reported scores.
Their accounts can be private. Charters must meet state guidelines.
Unmoved by those who fear vouchers threaten the First Amendment
prohibition of government establishment of religion (Supreme
Court Justice David Souter has said vouchers would require taxpayers
to “subsidize faiths you don’t believe in,”
and “make religion dependent on government”), Brennan
dismisses the religion argument as “a red herring,”
maintaining that the real issue is government vs. parental control
of schools. Although 96 percent of Cleveland’s vouchers
go to parochial schools and 85 percent of private schools in
the country are sectarian, Brennan maintains that vouchers allow
choice and encourage competition. So far, vouchers are legal
in three states: Ohio, Wisconsin (only Milwaukee), and Florida
(recently questioned in a state circuit court decision). When
put to a vote of the electorate, vouchers have passed in only
one of 20 states tested. Ever the optimist, David Brennan quips,
“change should not be easy.” He is encouraged by
the June 5-4 Supreme Court decision permitting vouchers in Cleveland.#
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