Officials comment on school voucher ruling |

Officials comment on school voucher ruling

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision permitting states to place initiatives for school vouchers on future ballots, South Shore educators have taken an unsurprising stance on the issue.

The Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 Saturday to uphold the constitutional right of an Ohio school voucher program that provided government money to low-income students for the option of attending private or religious schools.

California voters have struck down school voucher proposals in referendums in the past; but with the decision, California and Nevada residents could see voucher initiatives in the future.

“I think that vouchers are about parental choice,” said Jonathan Bustamante, principal at St. Theresa Catholic School. “I think there are some public schools in the nation that parents aren’t happy with. People get angry and look for alternatives and school vouchers are an option.”

Bustamante believes the voucher program could work in smaller states, but of itself isn’t the entire answer.

He said people are threatened by the program and believes the focus should instead center on children’s education.

Mike Patterson, president of South Tahoe Educators Association, is not in favor of the program. If a voucher initiative is approved by California voters down the road, it could accelerate declining enrollment in Lake Tahoe Unified School District and increase public school teacher layoffs.

“If your school enrollment decreases, it’s hard to offer specialized programs,” he said. “I would hate to see any kid have fewer options than they already have.”

John Soderman, superintendent of Douglas County School District, acknowledged the issue of vouchers was raised because of deficiencies in the nation’s public school system.

“We brought a lot of this on ourselves, so to speak, and we need to deliver,” Soderman said.

Bustamante stood outside St. Theresa Catholic School leaning against an open door while contemplating the issue.

“I do believe the program is about choice, especially when there aren’t any choices,” he said.

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