Sunday, November 27, 2016

School Voucher Plans: Who benefits more: the students or the holders of ideological beliefs?

This is a reposting of an 11/27/16 blog posting

Betsy DeVos has been tapped as Donald Trump's Education Secretary. She is an ardent supporter of charter schools and vouchers for private education but she is reported to be also in favor of testing which may or may not mean Common Core (which Donald Trump wants to trash). She is getting hit from both the left and the right.  

 Ideology should not be the basis for providing education that is good for our children. .The goal of some is to get religious based education paid for by taxpayer money.  They have had to buck numerous court decisions that upheld the Constitution's separation of church and state.  However, there are two questions involved:  One is the Constitutionality of a voucher program that can fund religious-based education. The other is it good public policy that improves educational outcome for all.   Will education teach kids to read, write, at least calculate using math, have critical thinking, understand history, its lessons and, yes civics?

 From the public policy perspective, will students' education benefit?  We do have some experience with vouchers and the results are contrary to expectations of many. advocates of vouchers.  From the public policy perspective, Students using vouchers to attend private schools in Ohio performed significantly worse on state tests than their peers who remained in public schools, according to a new study. In Wisconsin, a study finds little or no indication that pupils in those Milwaukee public schools that have more school choice possibilities nearby made significantly greater year-to-year gains in primary school tests than pupils in other Milwaukee public schools. (

So what is wrong about those who support using taxpayer money vouchers in support of "religious education".  What is at issue is the separation of church and state in the Constitution and if funding religious schools violates that. provision. 

There was an attempt in a Denver suburb, Douglas County, to allow vouchers to be used for religious based schools.   The effort failed in a federal court.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 split ruled in favor of a voucher program in Ohio if it went to parents, not to schools, had a secular purpose and did not fund religious education.  The Private Choice Test developed by the Court, for a voucher program to be constitutional was that  it must meet all of the following criteria:

  • the program must have a valid secular purpose
  • aid must go to parents and not to the schools
  • a broad class of beneficiaries must be covered
  • the program must be neutral with respect to religion
  • there must be adequate nonreligious options
However, the results have had mixed performance on student tests. From a public policy viewpoint, it has not been a great success.

The conclusion from these experiences is that vouchers do not benefit the students so much as it satisfies ideological and political beliefs that choice that includes private schools is the most important criteria or that anything private is better than that which is government funded...

Posted on Facebook in the comment section of the posing of this was a very well expressed comment: by Maggie Orth.
"The problem with vouchers is that they create a baseline cost for education. Those who can only afford the vouchers will get crap. Those who can supplement will get more. Moreover, vouchers assume that working parents have the resources and time to weed through a complex marketplace-- just as Medicare vouchers do with seniors. I shudder to think of my poor parents who are struggling with my father's Alzheimer's trying to sort through "market-based Medicare options." The only thing education vouchers guarantee is a parent's right to indoctrinate their children and deny them access to ideas the parents don't like. There are facts in the world- like geology and science. If people think the US can be a world-class stable democracy and economy when people can teach their children whatever facts they want, they are very wrong."

The private elementary school average is $8,522 per year and the private high school averages $12,953.   ..

Michigan has gone from a middle-of-the-pack state to the bottom tier in just 12 years. The state's NAEP ranking on fourth-grade reading has dropped from 28th in 2003 to 41st in 2015, the latest results. The fourth-grade math ranking has dropped from 27th in 2003 to 42nd, writes Ravitch. The Detroit Free Press runs down the numbers here.

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