Day: February 12, 2014

School vouchers – a bad idea that refuses to die

 

Some bad ideas just won’t go away, and stealing tax dollars from public schools to pay for private school vouchers is one of them. Voucher legislation failed – again – in the Texas Legislature last session, although lawmakers did expand opportunities for private charter school operators to dip into the state treasury.

Fortunately, the Texas Legislature isn’t in session this year, but many other legislatures around the country are, and voucher proponents are knocking on the doors in several of them, according to a roundup published in Education Week.

Bills to either create or expand state voucher programs have been filed in Alaska, Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin. And, U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Tim Scott of South Carolina have filed legislation in Washington to convert several federal education assistance programs into vouchers that would allow students to take federal tax dollars to private schools.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has called for a further expansion of that state’s voucher program, which already has doubled in size since it started in 2011. It now diverts tax dollars to 19,800 students. Far more interesting than the governor’s proposal, however, is a recent State of Indiana report that shows what kind of students actually are using vouchers.

Remember all the claims, at least in Texas, that vouchers are mainly intended to help low-income, disadvantaged students escape from “failing” neighborhood schools? We will hear the same claims next year, accompanied by a large volume of crocodile tears.

In any event, according to the official Indiana report, 40 percent of the students receiving vouchers in Indiana during the current school year never attended a public school in that state. So, do voucher advocates really care who the students are? What were these kids “escaping” from?

The Indiana report reconfirms my long-held suspicions that the voucher movement is largely a privatization raid on public schools intended more to benefit private school owners than school children. Depending on eligibility requirements, they also can give families of above-average wealth a break—at taxpayers’ expense — on their kids’ private school tuition.