Starting this week, proponents of private school voucher schemes will be touting National School Choice Week – but what they won’t be touting is all the ways that vouchers harm public education and religious freedom.
President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos want to prioritize voucher programs by diverting desperately needed public funds away from public schools and funneling the money toward private, mostly religious schools. But public money should fund the public schools that educate 90 percent of American schoolchildren.
To help dispel the misinformation spread by voucher proponents, Americans United for Separation of Church and State produced this short video to educate people about vouchers, how they undermine religious freedom and public education, and how they can harm children, families, public schools and you – the taxpayer. Here’s the real truth about vouchers:
Vouchers harm children: Private schools accepting taxpayer-funded vouchers don’t offer students the same civil rights protections required of public schools. Voucher schools don’t have to provide services to students with disabilities that are federally required of public schools under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Voucher schools often discriminate against LGBTQ students and children from LGBTQ families. And numerous studies of voucher programs across the country have found that not only do students using vouchers not improve academically but in many cases, their academic performance is worse.
Vouchers harm families: Voucher programs mislead families by offering them the premise of choice, but in reality, that’s not the case. Private schools, not families, have all the choices when it comes to vouchers. The schools can pick and choose which students they serve and turn away whoever they don’t want. Vouchers usually don’t cover the entire cost of tuition and fees at private schools, making a private education unaffordable and out-of-reach for many families, especially those that have low incomes.
Vouchers harm public schools: Regardless of whether they’re called vouchers, tuition tax credits or education savings accounts, these programs are funded with your tax dollars – money that is diverted from public schools. That means while your local public schools still will be educating the vast majority of neighborhood children, the schools will have less money for innovative teachers, curriculum development, adequate materials, new technology and all the other necessities to prepare children for the future.
Vouchers harm you: You, the taxpayer, should not be forced to support two schools systems – one public and one private. All Americans have the right to decide what religions, if any, they will support. No one should be compelled to fund religious instruction with which they don’t agree; that’s a clear violation of religious freedom.
So, don’t believe the hype you hear this week. School choice doesn’t offer a real choice for American families. Vouchers are bad for everyone – children, families, public schools and taxpayers. Let’s keep public money where it belongs – in public schools.
Americans United is already fighting more than 70 bills that would create or expand state voucher programs in 2018; you can help us by telling your state legislators and members of Congress to oppose any bills that would authorize private school vouchers. To learn more about how vouchers harm public education and religious freedom, check out the National Coalition for Public Education, which AU co-chairs. And follow us on Facebook and Twitter. All week we’ll be sharing the real facts on “school choice.”