Today marks 100 days since Michigan billionaire and school voucher proponent Betsy DeVos took over the reins as President Donald J. Trump’s Secretary of Education. If there’s one thing she’s accomplished in that time, she’s demonstrated her perseverance in pushing for vouchers.
Instead of supporting strong public education, she’s been promoting private school vouchers, which undermine public schools. Vouchers divert desperately needed public resources away from the public school system to fund the education of a few students at private schools –without offering any actual reforms. The government would better serve our children by using these funds to make the public schools stronger.
Yet, over and over again in her visits to schools and in public appearances, DeVos has touted voucher schemes – and Trump has joined in. They went to a private religious school in Florida that benefits from one of the state’s voucher programs. And in early May, they invited students who participate in the controversial, federally funded Washington, D.C., voucher program to the White House.
Next week, we expect them to start acting on their misguided ideas. On Tuesday, Trump is expected to propose significant cuts to the federal education budget while redirecting some funding to private-school voucher schemes when he releases his detailed budget proposal. The Washington Post yesterday reported Trump’s spending plan is expected to echo the proposal put forth in his “skinny” preliminary budget in March: $250 million toward a fund to study and expand private school vouchers and another $1 billion for “portability” – a scheme that could be a stepping stone to vouchers.
The budget proposal is the first down payment toward the $20 billion in federal money Trump promised he’d funnel toward private and charter schools during the campaign.
Also next week, DeVos is expected to unveil the administration’s plan for legislation for a nationwide voucher scheme, likely to be a tuition tax credit (TTC) program. According to Politico, if this proposal were enacted, it could funnel billions of dollars to private and religious schools.
During his first address to the joint Congress in late February, Trump hinted at his support for tuition tax credits when he referenced Florida’s TTC program. TTCs are a type of voucher that gives people or businesses a tax credit if they contribute money to a “scholarship” organization, which then uses the money to pay for private school tuition. Despite the middle man, taxpayer money still is being funneled to private schools, just as in a voucher program.
Private school vouchers divert desperately needed public resources away from the public school system.
This push for vouchers, which comes at the expense of public schools, flies in the face of mounting evidence that vouchers cause harm. For example, a new Department of Education study shows that students participating in the D.C. voucher program performed worse academically than students not in the program. Other studies of state voucher programs back this up: private school vouchers do not improve student achievement. Moreover, studies show that vouchers threaten to increase school segregation and lack accountability.
And just this month, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, joined the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in releasing a study that shows TTC programs would create federally sanctioned tax shelters for wealthy taxpayers while siphoning money away from public schools.
And if that’s not enough evidence, there’s the multitude of other studies that have been released in recent years outlining the failings of voucher plans.
Trump and DeVos continue their push for federally funded vouchers, but they can’t do it without Congress. So we need you to push back: Urge your members of Congress to oppose any bills that would fund private school vouchers.
Check out the facts about how harmful vouchers are here.