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There is a lot of misinformation about school choice, and sometimes even wise and well intentioned people are misled. As school choice success stories begin to go mainstream though, more people are championing the ideas of empowering students and parents. Just ask Ann Duplessis, former anti-voucher advocate who is now at the forefront of a group fighting for vouchers.
School vouchers are based on the idea that money allotted for a child’s education should follow the child. In states where voucher programs are allowed, a parent can choose a private school over a failing state school, and the government will issue them a voucher to apply toward the cost of tuition. This is money which would have been spent on the child for a traditional public school and is merely being shifted to another school. As the daughter of public school teachers, lifelong Democrat Duplessis saw these vouchers as taking dollars away from a system that needed the money, and fought against them.
Duplessis used to be vehemently anti-voucher, even working to ensure that one of the first voucher bills in Louisiana failed when she served in the state senate. Unfortunately it took a tragic incident to change her perspective. In 1981, Duplessis' father was robbed and murdered. “And this is in the middle of the day, and they should have been in school,” she said, “I really strongly believe that had those two young men been given other choices and wanted to be in school, my dad would perhaps be alive today.”
She decided to learn more about vouchers. “I had to educate myself,” she said. “And as I did I began to see the deplorable conditions of a lot of these schools.” Her interest in voucher programs grew, and she now heads up the Louisiana Federation for Children, which fights for vouchers. It’s a big fight, and she recently found herself up against United States Attorney General, Eric Holder when he tried to get an injunction against Louisiana’s program. “It’s political. It’s unfortunate. It’s wrong,” said Duplessis, “I have three girls and three grandchildren. I couldn’t bear the thought of them being in an environment that I didn’t know if they were going to come home that evening.”
She doesn’t see this as a racial issue, either, as Holder has argued. “We’re at a state in history now, I find it offensive the idea that because you’re in an all black school it’s not as good,” she said. “To me, that is so offensive. I would hope the DOJ would look at desegregating kids out of bad schools.” The bottom line is that school vouchers work. Anyone who puts children ahead of the union and government stronghold on the educational system would have to agree. Let’s hope that more anti-choice advocates will, like Duplessis, research the options and put kids first.