Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was expected to finally reveal details of President Donald J. Trump’s long-promised federal school voucher plan last night. Instead, we heard a lot of platitudes, but little in the way of a policy proposal.
Vouchers weaken public schools by taking scarce funding away from public schools and giving it to private schools that are unaccountable to the public – but you wouldn’t know that from listening to DeVos. She was a keynote speaker at a conference sponsored by the American Federation for Children, the pro-voucher advocacy group she chaired before she joined Trump’s administration.
DeVos hyped Trump’s promise to funnel federal money to voucher programs, but once again offered no information on how the administration would implement a federal program. The only suggestion she offered was that states shouldn’t be forced to participate in a federal program – but then noted it would be a “terrible mistake” if they opted out.
What’s terrible, though, is making taxpayers fund two different education systems – one public and one religious. But that’s what Trump’s proposed budget, released today, would do. It would significantly cut education funding while redirecting some of the remaining money to school voucher programs. In other words, it robs Peter to pay Paul – it slashes the overall education budget by more than $10 billion, including funding for our public schools, but would authorize new expenditures including $250 million to expand vouchers.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos offered platitudes but little policy in her speech to the pro-voucher American Federation for Children.
Public funds should be used to help public schools, where 90 percent of our students are educated. We have a responsibility to provide great public schools to every student. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for private, mostly religious schools that pick and choose only a select few students.
Not only would the Trump/DeVos budget weaken public schools, but it would support voucher programs that have been found to be ineffective and even harmful to students. Research has repeatedly found that voucher programs simply do not work. You can learn more about the harm vouchers can cause here.
Since Indiana was the host of last night’s conference, DeVos and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) lauded the state’s voucher program, which grew to one of the country’s largest under former governor, now Vice President Mike Pence. But a University of Notre Dame study in late 2015 found Indiana students using vouchers performed worse in math and showed no improvement in reading.
DeVos is expected to testify about the education budget at a congressional hearing on Wednesday; perhaps she’ll be more forthcoming about the administration’s federal voucher plan then. But regardless of how she and Trump try to spin it, vouchers are bad education policy. She and Trump instead should focus on investing in the public schools and teachers that educate the vast majority of American schoolchildren.
We know they will get around to announcing their voucher plan eventually, so now is the time to act. Urge your members of Congress to oppose any legislation that would fund private school vouchers.