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Please help make the Manifesto better, or accept it, and propagate it!


The welfare system reform ( I have personally been part of managing
information systems in the State Government of Wisconsin, when Governor
Tommy Thomson was the President of Governor's conference as well as the
pioneer in welfare reform initiative), which deals with poor people and
single Moms dependent on welfare checks they receive from Uncle Sam for
their survival, is quite different from the school system reforms. The
welfare reforms implemented in fact take away the welfare checks or vouchers
that used to be given to individual people. In any case, it won't be fair to
drag the US welfare reform issue in this forum. 

School system reform, on the other hand,directly challenges the very
existence of public schools. Yes, there is some merit in your argument that
powerful teachers union is strongly against school voucher programs and
hence there is a force working in favor of status quo. However, that is not
the whole story. You can hear strong voices from all across the political
spectrum that very genuinely talks about the difference the public schools
have made, should make and that the alternatives don't deal with the issues
that a public school does, such as providing education to inner city poor
neighborhoods etc. In any case, the fact is, school voucher program is not
implemented in the United States, and barring a fringe minority of radical
republicans, nobody even talks about them,and I can quote even prominent and
influential republicans, including some Presidential candidates, who
strongly oppose doing away with public schools. I myself pay over $4000.00
per year as City Tax, and part of the reason why it is higher then other
neighboring areas, because it partly funds a quality public school in my
neighborhood. I know that with this little amount of money I couldn't afford
to provide the kind of education facility that, together ,all citizens in
the neighborhood and the Government, have made possible, where my son could
go to, and of course I am going to have a say if the quality of education
deteriorates or teachers don't do their job properly. 

Coming back to India. I agree with you fully that scholarships to individual
students from non-profit organizations in the form of vouchers or whatever,
are the way to go, and I think that's how it is done even now. While in
school in India, I got scholarships from Government as well as from a
Private Charity Organization, and they were all direct assistance to me the
student and not to the school or college I went to. At least the private
Charity never forced me to enroll in any specific college, the only
condition was that I had to keep gaining good grades in all of my classes.

The reason I am against government paying out vouchers to every child or
his/her parents in India are the following facts :

1. Vouchers are only as good as the takers of such vouchers. While larger
cities and towns which have alternative public as well as private schools,
could manage to improve (hopefully) under the pressure of competition, and
in their desire to earn more by attracting more voucher paying students,
there is not much such voucher holders could do in places where there are no
schools, and I am sure you know there are lot of such places in rural India.

2. Governments have been said to have been paying salaries to their
employees on borrowed money, that speaks volumes about the state of economy
our states are in. May be a lot has changed in 7-8 years (for better or for
worse that you local people can tell), but I talk about a personal tale of a
professor I met at the regional engineering college of Patna some 8 years
ago. He said the teachers were not paid their salaries in six months, and
somehow they were surviving, hoping that the state government would wake up
and think about them soon. 

I am sure there are still some budgetary constraints our governments have to
work under, and there are numerous constituencies which generate little or
no tax revenue, and hence the question comes, where the heck such vouchers
are going to come from, and in so much amount and so many numbers that all
of the children could be given the opportunity to choose from among
alternative schools?

Sure this would be a nice thing, if it can be achieved. However, knowing the
way our state of economy is, and knowing that there are at least 30-40% of
geographical locations which don't have any schools, I would prefer to
settle with a government commitment that a school is provided to every child
of India. 

On Accountability :

Yes, I think in this front you and I are not too far apart. The key word is
LOCAL CONTROL. I prefer local control in two ways :

1. Administrative and functioning/hiring/retaining of teachers etc. : 
   Local city or village government (Municipality or Village Panchayat,
which is elected by local citizens). Such a government will be 
   answerable to the local citizens. Central and State Governments can
direct all local school related funds to the village government. 

2. Citizens control over day-to-day quality of education, and
teacher-parents conferences should have the authority to make qualitative 
   decisions, and of course parents can approach the village government to
seek redressal of their irreconcilable differences with the 

This, in my view, is the most cost effective and workable solution to start
with. Again, this is not a permanent solution, just as nothing, no policy
should be carved in stone in a living breathing democracy, and every
generation should be given the opportunity to make changes to meet their
requirement in their times.



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