In Milwaukee, just 13 percent of voucher students scored proficient in math and 11 percent made the bar in reading this spring. That’s worse on both counts than students in the city’s public schools. —Stephanie Simon
So, we’ve discussed charter schools, but haven’t had much to say about vouchers so far. Let’s be clear on this: school vouchers are a method of transfering public monies from public, freely accessible, schools to private closed enrollment schools. In the majority of the cases, the families making use of a voucher to help fund their child’s private school education was already paying to send them there to begin with. In effect, the public coffers are now paying to subsidize students who were already attending the private school. “Fully two-thirds of students in Wisconsin’s Parental Choice Program were already enrolled in private schools before they received the tuition subsidy — and another 5 percent were home schooled, state data show.” (Vouchers Don’t Do Much For Students —Simon)
In many studies (one example is here) students using vouchers for private schools show little improvement in test scores over their public school counterparts—much like charter school students in that regard—and in many cases score worse. It seems that the students who perform best when moving from public schools to private schools (as opposed to never having attended public schools to begin with) are the students who would have performed well in any environment. There is not a single study that shows a statistically significant improvement in performance when moving students from public to private schools.
So, why spend the money?
Again, this is primarily about power structures. Affluent parents want the subsidies to offset their costs to enroll their children in elite or religious schools, and money-chasing legislators are all too willing to accommodate them regardless of the research. It is clearly obvious that the more efficient use of these public monies would be to spend them on improving the quality of education for all students, but improving education and educational outcomes has never been the motivating factor in the school choice movement. Nor has the concept of freedom. A case in point is the dust-up over the use of vouchers in Louisiana to pay for tuition at an Islamic school.
Republican state Rep. Kenneth Havard objected to the Islamic School’s request for 38 government-paid student vouchers, saying he opposed any bill that “will fund Islamic teaching. I won’t go back home and explain to my people that I supported this.”
It appears, at least in Louisiana, that only state-sanctioned religion is eligible for public funds. My guess is that this fight will happen in any state that allows public funds to be transferred to private religious schools, once again putting the lie to the notion that it’s all about the “freedom to choose.” What it is about is no less than a back-door attempt to destroy universal public education. This has always been a thorn in the side of the Right(wrong), and in this they feel they have a winner—a way to end public education forever.
- Privatization Proliferates: Vouchers, Charters, and Portfolio School Reform (janresseger.wordpress.com)
- The Right-Wing Agenda of MinnCAN (dianeravitch.net)
- Ind. poised to lead nation in school voucher use (sfgate.com)
- Lawmakers end voucher study with few clear answers (posttrib.suntimes.com)
- ‘School Choice’ Charade: Evidence Against Vouchers Continues To Mount (secularnewsdaily.com)
- Catholic, voucher schools oppose testing bill (sfgate.com)
- Scrap NH’s school vouchers (nhnea.wordpress.com)
- Vouchers don’t do much for students (politico.com)
- Op-Ed: New Jersey Public Schools — Separate, Unequal, and Unfair (njspotlight.com)
- Ind. poised to lead nation in school voucher use (kansascity.com)