Several media outlets have reported that during tonight’s State of the Union address, President Donald Trump will highlight a scheme to funnel taxpayer money to private schools – in other words, a nationwide voucher plan.
The Washington Post reported that under the plan, euphemistically called “Education Freedom Scholarships,” individuals and corporations would receive a 100 percent tax credit for money they donate to subsidize vouchers. The plan, cooked up Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has a price tag of a whopping $5 billion. (And despite what DeVos claims, that's taxpayer money, not private funding.)
Since this plan is likely to get a lot of attention in the days and weeks to come, it’s important to brush up on the dangers of vouchers. The National Coalition for Public Education, which Americans United co-chairs, has a lot of material on its website that you can use to debunk the claims of voucher proponents.
Here are some key talking points to keep in mind:
Vouchers subsidize religious education with public dollars: Most private schools are religious in nature. They should be supported by the people who believe in the faith they spread, not government funds. Yet, voucher plans use taxpayer funds to support these schools, rather than using those funds to support our public schools.
Vouchers don’t work: Vouchers are supposed to boost student achievement – but they don’t. Objective studies of existing voucher plans in states like Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana and in the city of Washington, D.C., have shown that students offered vouchers showed no improvement in reading or math over those not in the program. In some states, students in voucher school actually performed worse than their public school counterparts.
Vouchers subsidize schools that discriminate: Unlike public schools, private schools are under no obligation to educate the masses. They can and do deny admission to or expel students for being LGBTQ (or even for having parents who are the same gender), for being the “wrong” religion or for running afoul of religious rules. In addition, faculty and staff at these schools have little protection when it comes to employment.
Vouchers harm public education: 90 percent of America’s schoolchildren attend public schools. These schools welcome all children, regardless of race, religion, income level, sexual orientation, special needs status, etc. Our scarce tax dollars should be reserved for the system that serves everyone, not funneled to private schools that lack the capacity to educate the masses.
Vouchers are not what the American people want: Every time voters have had an opportunity to vote on voucher plans directly through ballot initiatives, they have rejected these schemes – usually by wide margins. Most recently, voters in the conservative state of Arizona turned back a plan to create a statewide voucher plan, with 65 percent voting against it.
Visit NCPE’s website to learn more about the dangers of vouchers, and sign this petition to make it clear that you support public funds for public schools. Also, please join Americans United as we work to oppose this misguided Trump scheme and all voucher boondoggles.